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Lower cholesterol may raise stroke risk for women, study says

By Tauren Dyson
Lower cholesterol may raise stroke risk for women, study says
Women who lowered their LDL cholesterol below 70 milligrams had twice the risk of suffering brain bleeding during a stroke than women whose LDL sat between 100 and 1300 milligrams. File Photo by sfam_photo/Shutterstock

April 11 (UPI) -- General medical advice says that lowering artery-clogging LDL cholesterol is a good thing, but for women, new research says it shouldn't be too low.

Women who lowered their LDL cholesterol below 70 milligrams had twice the risk of suffering brain bleeding during a stroke than women whose LDL sat between 100 and 1,300 milligrams, according to a study published Wednesday in Neurology. In contrast, high levels of LDL, known as bad cholesterol, is also one of the main risk factors for strokes.

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"Strategies to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, like modifying diet or taking statins, are widely used to prevent cardiovascular disease," Pamela Rist, a researcher at Brigham and Woman's Hospital and study author, said in a news release. "But our large study shows that in women, very low levels may also carry some risks. Women already have a higher risk of stroke than men, in part because they live longer, so clearly defining ways to reduce their risk is important."

The researchers also found that having triglycerides levels that are too low can also cause hemorrhagic strokes, or strokes that cause brain bleeding. These types of stroke are more rare than ischemic strokes, but deadlier because they're harder to treat.

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Traditionally, high triglycerides can increase a person's chance for a stroke. But the study shows that women with fasting triglyceride levels lower than 74 milligrams or non-fasting levels lower than 84 milligrams have twice the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke than women with much higher levels.

"Women with very low LDL cholesterol or low triglycerides should be monitored by their doctors for other stroke risk factors that can be modified, like high blood pressure and smoking, in order to reduce their risk of hemorrhagic stroke," Rist said. "Also, additional research is needed to determine how to lower the risk of hemorrhagic stroke in women with very low LDL and low triglycerides."

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