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Cholesterol Drugs May Help After Bleeding Stroke

Blood Vessel Problem in Brain May Be Rarer in Survivors Taking Statins
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WebMD Health News

July 28, 2005 -- Statin drugs, which lower cholesterol, may have a benefit for survivors of strokes caused by bleeding in the brain.

Two small studies tested statins on people who had a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain -- called a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Thirty-five percent of patients with subarachnoid hemorrhages die in the first 24 hours, says researcher John Lynch, MD, in a news release.

Patients taking statins fared better than those given a fake drug (placebo).They were less likely to have prolonged constriction of brain blood vessels after their brain hemorrhage.

The prolonged constriction, called cerebral vasospasm, is common with bleeding in the brain and may lead to another stroke.

Longer, larger studies should be done, write the researchers in Stroke.

A Leading Killer

Strokes are the No. 3 cause of death and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability in the U.S. Every year, nearly 700,000 Americans have a stroke. That's about one stroke every 45 seconds, states the web site of the American Stroke Association (ASA).

Strokes can happen when a blood vessel is clogged (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel breaks, bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

Most strokes are ischemic strokes. By curbing cholesterol that can clog blood vessels, statin drugs help avoid ischemic strokes.

Doctors already knew that. The new studies focused on patients who had had the rarer hemorrhagic strokes.

Stroke Warning Signs

The ASA lists these stroke warning signs:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble with speaking, or trouble with understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble with walking
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause is more common after a hemorrhagic stroke

Get medical help immediately at any sign of stroke. Prompt treatment can make a big difference, and some medications must be given within a short time frame.

British Stroke Study

The larger study -- with 80 patients -- was done in the U.K. Patients got Lipostat (a British version of the statin drug Pravachol) or a placebo. The statin was made by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., a WebMD sponsor.

The pills were taken for up to 14 days, starting within 72 hours of brain bleeding. Patients taking Lipostat had 32% fewer blood vessel constrictions in the brain than those taking the placebo.

Blood vessel constriction was also shortened by nearly one day with the statin group, researchers write. They included Ming-Yuan Tseng, MD, MPhil, MSc, of the neurosurgery department at Addenbrooke's Hospital at the University of Cambridge.

U.S. Study

The second study -- done in the U.S. -- was smaller, with 39 patients. It compared another statin, Zocor, with a placebo. Researchers including John Lynch, MD, of Duke University's medical school conducted the study.

Zocor was given to 19 patients; the others got a placebo. Patients took the pills for 14 days, starting within 48 hours of their brain hemorrhage.

The Zocor group had fewer blood vessel constrictions than the placebo group. The problem was seen in five of the 19 patients taking Zocor and 12 out of the 20 taking the placebo.

Zocor is made by Merck & Co., a WebMD sponsor.

The results may pave the way for bigger studies on the topic, write the researchers.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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