Statins (think cholesterol meds like Crestor and Lipitor), and acetaminophen (found in pain relievers like Tylenol) may be effective in reducing the risk of stroke, according to two studies summarized on Health.com.
The first study was done by a team of researchers in France to test whether statins could prevent a first stroke, while the second group of Dutch researchers wanted to find out if taking an acetaminophen after the first signs of stroke would help the patient.
The French study looked at over 165,000 patients from more than 24 different studies. Researchers discovered that decreasing "bad" cholesterol (LDL) using statins also decreased the risk of stroke. In fact, for every 1 millimole per liter decrease, the risk of stroke also went down 21 percent. The studies also suggest that the drug may also stave off blockages in the cartoid arteries that can be the cause of stroke and other illnesses.
“It crystallizes the fact that there’s a direct relationship between lowering LDL and lowering the risk of stroke,” said Dr. Jonathan Friedman, an associate professor of surgery and of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. “It’s not just a matter of putting patients at risk for stroke on a statin and considering that a success, but actually being aggressive about lowering LDL and monitoring and making sure the response is as significant as you can expect. The amount that you lower the LDL actually matters. That wasn’t so obvious to a lot of us,” he said.
The study in the Netherlands focused on Tylenol-like pain relievers and their ability to decrease a stroke’s effects. It was found that stroke victims with normal or near normal body temperatures (from 98.6 to 102.2 F) fared better after receiving the drug after the start of a stroke than patients that did not take the medicine. Researchers think that Tylenol’s ability to reduce fever during the onset of a stroke helps a patient during their long-term recovery.
“The theory is that certain cells in the brain are not getting enough blood flow, and if the temperature of the body is high, then the metabolic rate of the cells is high, and they need more blood and oxygen — or they will die,” Jonathan explained. “If the person is cool, then perhaps the metabolism will slow down and [the brain cells] could live longer.”
Right now, medical guidelines recommend using an acetaminophen for patients with a fever of 99.5 F or higher, but, according to the second study, there is not sufficient proof that this is effective. They took 1,400 stroke patients and randomly gave each of them either a pain reliever or a placebo pill. Patients took the pills within 12 hours of a common stroke or intracerabal hemorrhaging. Only patients with normal or elevated body temperatures (from 98.6 to 102.2 F) saw benefits; 40 percent of this group benefitted from the acetaminophen, versus about 31 percent of placebo-takers.
More studies needs to be done, so researchers aren’t advocating this medicine to stroke sufferers yet.
“I do not believe that most clinicians are using acetaminophen in the short term with all patients who have stroke, [although] most physicians feel that avoiding fever in people with stroke is important, and we would use acetaminophen in those who have a fever greater than 37.5 Celsius [99.5 F],” Jonathon said. “But, we lack much data on that issue, and we definitely don’t give acetaminophen to every patient with a stroke.”
Visit the American Stroke Association’s website for more information about preventing and dealing with stroke.
— Whitney Teal