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Cholesterol-lowering statins boost survival in stroke patients

A new study from Kaiser Permanente has shown that cholesterol-lowering statins such as Pfizer Inc’s Lipitor helped boost survival in stroke patients who had had a bleed on their brain.

Haemorrhagic strokes account for up to 14% of stroke cases. Weakened vessels rupture and bleed into the surrounding brain, and as the blood accumulates, it compresses the surrounding brain tissue, sometimes causing damage. Because your brain controls everything your body does, including your senses, your speech, your memory, vision, movement and emotions, damage to it can often effect one or more of these functions.
Over recent years, healthcare experts and professionals have been concerned that statins taken to low cholesterol actually increase bleeding in the brain after a haemorrhagic stroke: the anti-clotting properties of most statins means that more blood would collate on the brain, causing further damage.This new research has found that haemorrhagic stroke patients who were given a statin whilst in hospital had double the chance of survival compared to those not given the drug. The research, which was published in the journal JAMA Neurology, also showed that those who were already taking the statins when they were admitted into hospital for the stroke were even three times more likely to survive.

However, the study which reviewed over 3,480 patients over a ten-year period showed the complete opposite. Results showed that taking a statin not only improved survival and brought forward the patient’s discharge date, but also showed that the anti-clotting properties of statins helped patients who had had an ischemic stroke (where blood can’t reach part of the brain) and improved blood flow, minimising damage.

Randolph Marshall, the professor of Neurology and chief of the Stroke Division of the Colombia University Medical Centre in New York wrote about the journal, stating: “It is a new concept for most clinicians that statins are actually safe to use and actually beneficial in the setting of ischemic stroke and haemorrhagic stroke. My hope is that doctors will take this to heart and understand the potential benefits of statins moving forward.”

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