Current guidelines recommend lowering cholesterol for heart disease risk reduction. New findings indicate that if cholesterol dips too low, it may boost the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Over a period of nine years, a Penn State-led study examined the relationship between low-density lipoprotein cholesterol—LDL, commonly known as “bad” cholesterol—and hemorrhagic stroke. This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. The researchers found that participants with LDL cholesterol levels below 70 mg/dL had a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
According to the researchers, low LDL cholesterol is recommended to reduce the risk of a heart attack or ischemic stroke—the latter when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked by a clot. But previous research has suggested a link between extremely low LDL cholesterol levels and hemorrhagic stroke. The researchers found that participants who had LDL cholesterol levels between 70 and 99 mg/dL had a similar risk of hemorrhagic stroke. But, when LDL cholesterol levels dipped below 70 mg/dL, the risk of hemorrhagic stroke increased significantly. For example, the risk increased by 169 percent for participants with LDL levels less than 50mg/dL relative to those with LDL levels between 70 and 99 mg/dL. These findings were consistent after controlling for age, sex, blood pressure and medication.
Note: Esther Diaz is a health education teacher who lives in suburban Atlanta. She is our contributor.
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