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Low HDL Levels May Hinder Stroke Recovery

A study from the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network(Philadelphia), shows that low blood levels of high-densitylipoprotein (HDL) (the "good" cholesterol) have been found toincrease the risk of memory problems and greater disabilityin patients after a stroke. The study also found that high levelsof homocysteine, an amino acid found in meat, also raisespoststroke disability.

Study author George C. Newman, MD, PhD, chairman ofthe department of neurosensory sciences at the network,said in a statement, "People with low levels of HDL, high levelsof homocysteine, and diabetes are twice as likely asthose without such problems to have poorer cognitive functionand greater disability after stroke."

The researchers looked at 3680 men and women over theage of 35 years in Canada, Scotland, and the United Stateswho had experienced a mild-to-moderate stroke within theprevious 3 months. The patients were tested for cognitiveability and disability at the start of the study and were followedfor the next 2 years. The researchers saw several factorsthat were shown to herald poststroke memory and disabilityproblems, which included lower HDL levels, higherhomocysteine levels, increased age, diabetes, and recurrentstroke. The findings were published in the November 27,2007, issue of Neurology.

Why Patients Stop Their Meds

Researchers at Radiant Research Inc (Chicago, IL), have foundthat, in spite of the many benefits of taking cholesterol-loweringstatin medications, patients stop taking them early.

Researchers studied the database of a major pharmacy andfound that the rates of statin discontinuation among >768,000patients were: 28% after 3 months, 41% after 6 months, and 59%after 1 year. Patients "who were on high-dose statins, paid highcopayments, or spoke Spanish were significantly more likely todiscontinue." The patients who used the Internet or had eitherheart disease or high blood pressure were less likely to stop takingthe medicines.

A separate study by researchers from the University ofPennsylvania found that it takes longer for all women and blackmen with hypertension and an increased risk of coronary arterydisease to bring their low-density lipoprotein (the "bad" cholesterol)levels under control, compared with nonblack men. Thesedifferences are likely due to patient differences in access/adherence to lipid-lowering medication therapy, according tothe researchers. The findings of both studies were presented atthe American Heart Association's annual meeting in November.

Relationship Between Cholesterol and Stroke Stumps Scientists

Although most medical experts agree on a link between highcholesterol and heart disease, a new study seems to make theconnection between cholesterol levels and stroke less clear.

Researchers at Oxford University found that high cholesterollevels in patients in their 70s and 80s actually lower the risk ofstroke, but are quick to point out that the high levels still raisedthe risk of heart attack. They emphasized that, in spite of theseconfusing data, patients should not stop taking statins, as statinshave been proven to lower the risk of stroke. The findings werepublished in the December 1, 2007, issue of The Lancet.

The team surveyed data on almost 900,000 adult patientswho had no heart disease and found the drop in blood cholesterollevels achieved with statins cut the risk of heart disease bymore than half in the 40- to 49-year-old age group; by 34% inthose aged 50 to 59 years; and 17% in patients between 70 and89 years of age. Yet total cholesterol levels were only weaklylinked with stroke mortality in the 40- to 59-year-old group; andin the 70- to 89-year-old group, higher levels were linked tolower stroke death rates.

Ketchup, Beans Help Lower Cholesterol

Although individuals may not want tohave them at the same time, ketchup andcooked dry beans have been found tohelp lower cholesterol levels in 2 studies.

A study from the University of Oulu inFinland found that ketchup and othertomato products lower low-densitylipoprotein (LDL) levels. Participantsadded either 30 g of ketchup or 400 mL oftomato juice to their daily diets for 3weeks, and in that time, researchersnoted a drop in total cholesterol levels byan average of just under 6%, and in LDLlevels of almost 13%.

Another study from the Grand ForksHuman Nutrition Research Center inNorth Dakota, showed that volunteerswho ate as little as one-half cup ofcooked dry beans a day helped significantlylower their total cholesterol levels.Researchers tested 80 volunteers 18 to55 years of age, half of whom had at least2 symptoms for metabolic syndrome,which include low high-density lipoproteinlevels.

For 12 weeks, participants added eitherone-half cup cooked dry pinto beans or 1serving of chicken soup to their dailydiets. Those who consumed the pintobeans were found to have markedlylower overall cholesterol levels. The findingswere published in the November2007 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

F A S T F A C T : Saturated fat is the leading dietary factor that increases blood serum cholesterol.

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