Already, statins are well-known for lowering cholesterol, however they have also been recognized for producing other beneficial effects, such as maintaining the health of cells that line our blood vessel walls and increasing our production of nitric oxide, which dilates our blood vessels.
Researchers studied 31 patients that suffered an ischemic stroke, in which a clot blocks blood flow to part of the brain. It was observed that 12 of the 31 subjects already prescribed statins to control cholesterol, experienced more rapid and complete return of blood flow to the blocked areas of the brain.
"We've known that patients on statins have better stroke outcomes, but the data in this study suggest a new reason why: Statins may help improve blood flow to brain regions at risk of dying during ischemic stroke," says senior author Jin-Moo Lee, MD, PhD, director of the cerebrovascular disease section in the Department of Neurology. "If that turns out to be the case, we may want to consider adding statins to the clot-busting drugs we normally give to acute stroke patients."To study this possibility, patients experiencing an ischemic stroke were treated with a clot-busting drug and followed up with an MRI. This scan was performed during treatment and again three hours later to assess the effectiveness of the clot-busting drug to restore blood flow to the blocked areas.
"To our knowledge, this is the first time someone has looked at the effects of statins on restoration of blood flow using brain tissue-based measurements instead of looking at the opening of blood vessels," says lead author Andria Ford, MD, assistant professor of neurology. "It's harder to do, but we feel it gives us more accurate measurements."In only a short 3 hour window, twelve of the patients that were already being treated with statins averaged about 50% restored blood flow to affected areas of the brain, whereas the remaining 19 patients that were not already being treated with statins only averaged roughly 13% restored blood flow.
In addition, physicians tested these patients using the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, which evaluates speech, movement, attention and sensation, upon arrival at the hospital and at one month following their stroke. These results also demonstrated that patients treated with statins showed more improvement in their scores when assessed a month after their stroke occurred.
Although results appear promising, researchers have not yet determined whether regular doses of statins or merely treatment of stroke with statins produces such results. Further investigation may prove to have a positive impact on society’s number one disabler.
Cholesterol Drugs May Improve Blood Flow After Stroke
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