Individuals who have experienced an intracerebral hemorrhage stroke and are prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins may face a reduced risk of suffering another stroke, particularly an ischemic stroke, in comparison to those who have had a similar stroke but are not taking statins. This conclusion stems from a recent study published in the August 30, 2023, online edition of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Intracerebral hemorrhage occurs when there is bleeding within the brain, whereas ischemic stroke results from a blockage in the blood flow to the brain and is the most common form of stroke. Dr. David Gaist, MD, PhD, from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, explained, “Previous research on individuals taking statins after experiencing a bleeding stroke has produced conflicting findings, prompting us to conduct a more comprehensive investigation.” He further noted,
We examined whether the use of statins following a bleeding stroke is associated with the risk of experiencing any subsequent stroke, including both those caused by bleeding and blood clots. Our findings indicate that individuals who used statins had a lower stroke risk, particularly in the case of ischemic strokes, while there was no change in the risk of bleeding strokes.”
To conduct the study, researchers analyzed health records in Denmark and identified 15,151 individuals who had suffered their first bleeding stroke.
These individuals were monitored from 30 days after their initial bleeding stroke until they experienced another stroke, passed away, or the follow-up period concluded, which averaged 3.3 years. Prescription data was utilized to ascertain information about statin usage.
The study then compared 1,959 individuals who experienced another stroke with 7,400 individuals who did not encounter another stroke but were similar in terms of age, sex, and other relevant factors. Among those who had another stroke, 757 individuals, or 39%, were using statins, compared to 3,044 individuals, or 41%, among those who did not experience a second stroke.
After adjusting for factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and alcohol consumption, statin use was linked to a 12% lower risk of another stroke.
Additionally, the study compared 1,073 individuals who suffered an ischemic stroke with 4,035 individuals who did not have another stroke. Among those who had an ischemic stroke, 427 individuals, or 40%, were taking statins, as compared to 1,687 individuals, or 42%, among those who did not experience another stroke.
After making adjustments for similar factors, statin use was associated with a 21% lower risk of an ischemic stroke following the initial bleeding stroke.
The study also examined 984 individuals who suffered a recurrent bleeding stroke and compared them to 3,755 individuals who did not experience another stroke. Among those with a recurrent bleeding stroke, 385 individuals, or 39%, were taking statins, compared to 1,532 individuals, or 41%, among those who did not have another stroke.
After conducting adjustments, researchers did not discover a significant connection between statin use and recurrent bleeding strokes.
Dr. Gaist concluded by stating, “The results of our study are promising for individuals taking statins who have previously experienced a bleeding stroke.” However, he emphasized, “While we observed a decreased risk of another stroke, it’s crucial to note that this reduced risk pertained to ischemic strokes. Nevertheless, we found no increased risk of bleeding strokes. Further studies are needed to confirm our findings.”
It’s important to acknowledge that the study had limitations, including its exclusive focus on the Danish population, primarily consisting of individuals of European ancestry, which may restrict the generalizability of the findings to other populations.