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For patients who have had a stroke but who have no history of coronary heart disease, a recent study has shown that treatment with atorvastatin following stroke can reduce the risk of a recurrence. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter study, known as Stroke Prevention by Aggressive Reduction in Cholesterol Levels, included 4731 patients at 205 sites around the world who had experienced either a stroke or a transient ischemic attack within 6 months of their inclusion in the study. The average age of the patient was 63 years, 60% were male, and patients were followed for an average of 5 years. Approximately 66% of patients had an ischemic stroke (sudden blockage of blood supply to the brain), 30% had a transient ischemic stroke (known as a "ministroke"), and 2% had a hemorrhagic stroke (leaking blood vessel in the brain). Ninety-four percent of patients were taking aspirin or clot-reducing medications as part of their treatment; 69% were being treated with blood pressure medications. Researchers randomly assigned patients to receive either 80 mg/day of atorvastatin or placebo. Results showed that atorvastatin reduced the risk of fatal and nonfatal strokes by 16% when compared with placebo. According to researchers, the cholesterol-lowering drug may help prevent future strokes by lowering lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is known to increase the risk of stroke as well as coronary heart disease. Patients taking atorvastatin had an LDL level of 73 mg/dL, compared with 129 mg/dL for patients in the placebo group. The study, funded by Pfizer, appeared in the August 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.