High cholesterol strongly linked to risk of stroke

Mar 11, 2019 4:00 PM

High levels of cholesterol are a major risk factor for stroke according to new research published today in Nature Medicine. The study suggests that more widespread use of statin therapy could prevent a large number of strokes as well as heart disease in the Chinese population and others with high stroke rates.

There are two major types of stroke, one caused by a blockage of blood supply to the brain (ischaemic stroke) and the other caused by bleeding into the brain (haemorrhagic stroke). While high cholesterol is a well-established risk factor for heart disease, there is little reliable evidence about its association with risk of the different stroke types.

Using data from the China Kadoorie Biobank the researchers found that higher levels of LDL-cholesterol ─ so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ ─ were positively associated with risk of ischaemic stroke and inversely associated with haemorrhagic stroke. Assessment of the net benefits of lowering LDL-cholesterol using statin therapy showed that the number of ischaemic strokes and major cardiovascular events that might be avoided with statin therapy greatly exceeded the likely numbers of haemorrhagic strokes.

Study author, Professor Zhengming Chen from the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, and Principal Investigator of the China Kadoorie Biobank said ‘Stroke is the second most common cause of death worldwide. The results provide important new evidence of the link between LDL-cholesterol and ischaemic stroke and the overall benefits of LDL-cholesterol lowering therapy in China.’

Read the paper here.

Full press release (pdf).