Theoretically, cholesterol-lowering medications might increase the risk for intracerebral hemorrhage - that is, bleeding in the brain - because abnormally low cholesterol is known to be a risk factor for the condition. However, a recent study has found cerebral hemorrhages have not increased with the widespread popularity of “statin” drugs such as Lipitor or Zocor.
In the medical journal Stroke, Dr. Daniel Woo of the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and a multicenter team report findings from their population-based study of genetic and environmental risk factors for bleeding stroke.
The researchers compared 188 patients with intracerebral hemorrhage and 366 matched subjects who did not have a stroke. They found that treatment with statins was not associated with an increased risk of intracerebral hemorrhage.
The authors point out, however, that they lacked data on subjects’ cholesterol levels and cholesterol subgroups, such as HDL (“good”) and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. The researchers knew which subjects were treated with statins, but they didn’t know whether treatment was effective in lowering cholesterol levels.
They say a possible explanation for their results is that treatment with statins may be a strong indicator of High cholesterol levels, and that “this factor alone is protective.” But that is speculative, they add. “We report only that the widespread use of statins in our population does not appear to have increased the risk of intracerebral hemorrhage.”
Woo’s group concludes that more studies are needed “to determine if lowering levels of cholesterol artificially using medications and statins bears the same risk of intracerebral hemorrhage as low cholesterol levels that occur naturally.”
SOURCE: Stroke, June 2004.
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.