For people who have already had a stroke, knocking off the statins is a really bad idea, research from Taiwan has confirmed.
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, scientists led by Meng Lee of Chang Gung University College of Medicine looked at the health of 45,151 Taiwanese patients who experienced an ischemic stroke – caused by a build-up of cholesterol in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the brain – between 2001 and 2012. All were prescribed statins – which work by reducing the clogging of arteries – within 90 days of being discharged from hospital.
The study has found that patients who stopped taking the medication three to six months after discharge ran a much higher risk of having a second stroke, as well as a substantially higher risk of dying from other causes.
Lee and his team used data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance program, which covers 99% of the country’s population.
Patients who stopped taking the medication had a 42% increased risk of having a second stroke, and a 37% risk of dying from other causes, the researchers found.
Interestingly, patients who shifted from a high to a lower dose of statins did not have an increased risk of a second event.
The results strongly indicate statins should not be regarded as a short-term or interim medication, Lee says.
“Based on our findings of this large group of patients in the ‘real world’, we believe that statins should be a lifelong therapy for ischemic stroke patients if a statin is needed to lower the patient’s cholesterol,” he says. “Discontinuation of statin treatment in patients with ischemic stroke should be strongly discouraged in any stage — acute or chronic — of stroke.”
Andrew Masterson is a former editor of Cosmos.
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