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Taking statins linked with 30% lower stroke risk

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Regular use of cholesterol lowering drugs is associated with a significantly lower risk of stroke in healthy older adults, according to a French study.

The authors said the results suggested lipid lowering drugs should be considered for the prevention of stroke in older populations.

“The research suggests that taking statins significantly cuts the risk of stroke for the over 65s”

Mike Knapton

The researchers compared lipid lowering drugs – statins or fibrates – with long-term risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

They tracked 7,484 men and women, with an average age of 74, with no known history of vascular events, living in the three French cities of Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier.

Face-to-face examinations took place every two years. Nurses and psychologists also performed interviews and took various physical and cognitive measurements.

After an average follow-up time of nine years, the researchers found that use of either statins or fibrates was associated with a one third lower risk of stroke, compared with non-users.

However, they found no association between lipid lowering drug use and coronary heart disease, said the authors in the British Medical Journal.

They noted that their study was observational, so no definitive conclusions could be drawn about cause and effect.  

Despite this, they said it raised the idea of long-term use of lipid lowering drugs for the primary prevention of stroke in older people, with no difference between statins and fibrates.

“A one third reduction in stroke risk, if confirmed, could have an important effect on public health,” said study author Christophe Tzourio, professor of epidemiology at Bordeaux University.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the study added the “body of evidence” that showed statins significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.

“The research suggests that taking statins significantly cuts the risk of stroke for the over 65s, which is an important finding as this age group is often excluded from clinical trials,” he said.

“More research is now needed to tell us conclusively if we should be prescribing statins more widely to people of this age to help lower their risk of a stroke,” he added.

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