Statin or fibrate treatment for cholesterol is associated with a 30 percent reduced risk of stroke in healthy older adults

by Bruce Sylvester: Older adults who use cholesterol-lowering statins or fibrates have one third less risk of stroke than their untreated counterparts, researchers reported on May 19, 2015 in The British Medical Journal/BMJ.

A team of French investigators enrolled 7,484 men and women (average age 74 years) with no known history of vascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. They conducted in-person examinations every two years, with nurses and psychologists also registering various physical and cognitive measurement changes.

After an average nine year follow-up, the researchers reported that users of  lipid lowering drug treatment of statins or fibrates had  achieved a one third lower risk of stroke, compared with non-users.

They found no association between lipid lowering drug treatment and reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, did not change the results, either for stroke or for coronary heart disease.

The authors emphasized that, in this study population, the incidence of stroke was low. 0.47 per 100 person years. But investigator Christophe Tzourio, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology at University of Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France, said, “in other populations more exposed to the risk of stroke, a one third reduction in stroke risk, if confirmed, could have an important effect on public health.”

While this observational study will not affect current guidelines,  the results “are sufficiently compelling to justify further research testing the hypothesis that lipid lowering may be effective in the primary prevention of stroke in older people,” said Graeme Hankey, M.D., Professor of Neurology at the University of Western Australia in Crawley, Australia, in an accompanying editorial.