Reducing cholesterol levels may also help women reduce their risk of stroke according to a new study by Harvard researchers. Women with high cholesterol with no history of heart disease or stroke were found to be twice as likely to suffer a stroke than women with normal cholesterol levels.
The study looked at more than 27,000 women from the United States and Puerto Rico who were part of the Women’s Health Study. Researchers measured the women’s cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study, and follow-up information was collected for an average of 11 years. With the exception of HDL (or “good”) cholesterol, the study found that all cholesterols were strongly associated with a higher risk of ischemic stroke.
“This is confirmation of what most of us in the field expect,” said Dr. Matthew Fink, professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College and chief of the division of stroke and critical care at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. “Those of us who care for patients treat them with statins to decrease cholesterol with the assumption that this correlation exists. Now, we have solid research to base our decisions on,” he said.
Still, both Fink said that the findings should be a wake-up call for women and men to start paying attention to their cholesterol levels, even if they’re feeling otherwise healthy. Lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, exercise, preventing obesity, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation can help prevent high cholesterol, he explained, and patients can turn to medications if these interventions don’t bring down their numbers.
Sources: T Kurth, M Fink, Lowering cholestrol lowers women’s stroke risk Neurology Feb. 20, 2007