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Is Cholesterol Tied To Stroke Or Heart Disease?

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:26am

A group of researchers reported in the Lancet medical journal that "lower total cholesterol was associated with lower death rates from coronary artery disease (also called ischemic heart disease) among men and women of all ages studied."

Being a leading cause of worldwide death, coronary artery disease is caused by fatty deposits that clog arteries. The deposits build up in the arteries, which supply the heart with blood, will narrow the arteries and reduce the blood flow to the heart. This can lead to heart attack and other conditions.

The researchers' initial aim for their study was to establish whether high cholesterol raises the risk of stroke but what they found at the end of their research was that "lower cholesterol levels were not linked to reduced stroke deaths."

Definitive previous research established that drugs called statins, which lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol (also called LDL or 'bad cholesterol) substantially reduce stroke risk. However, based on the researchers' analysis of 61 previous studies involving almost 900,000 adults, conducted mostly in western Europe and North America, people with lower total blood cholesterol levels had a lower heart disease death rate.

The study tracked on people who aged between 40 and 89, and found that about 34,000 of them died of heart disease and 12,000 died of a stroke. The study, nevertheless, did not separate those died of ischemic stroke (caused by blocked arteries) from haemorrhagic stroke (caused by a burst blood vessel).

Surprisingly, the study could not establish any relationship between total cholesterol levels and risk of stroke death, especially at older ages and among people with higher blood pressures.

The researchers could not really understand what is going on. And they stressed that they need to know more about cholesterol and more about stroke sub-types to find out the reasons behind this. In the meantime, they do not want people already on a statin thinking that they should stop taking the drug because if their cholesterol gets lower, then they are at a higher risk of stroke. That is absolutely not the case.
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