In a new study, researchers found that too little low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, commonly known as “bad” cholesterol) in the body may increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain.
This finding may help refine and personalize recommendations for ideal target cholesterol levels.
The research was led by Penn State University.
Current guidelines recommend lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol for heart disease risk reduction. Low LDL cholesterol is recommended as a way to reduce the risk of a heart attack or ischemic stroke.
In an ischemic stroke, a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked by a clot.
But previous research has suggested a link between very low LDL cholesterol levels and hemorrhagic stroke.
In the new study, the team found that participants with LDL cholesterol levels below 70 mg/dL had a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
The findings indicate that if cholesterol dips too low, it may boost the risk of this type of stroke.
The team examined 96,043 participants with no history of stroke, heart attack or cancer when the study began.
LDL cholesterol levels were measured when the study began and yearly thereafter for nine years. Reported incidents of hemorrhagic stroke were confirmed by medical records.
The researchers found that people who had LDL cholesterol levels between 70 and 99 mg/dL had a similar risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
However, when LDL cholesterol levels dipped below 70 mg/dL, the risk of hemorrhagic stroke increased a lot.
For example, the stroke risk increased by 169% for participants with LDL levels less than 50mg/dL compared with those with LDL levels between 70 and 99 mg/dL.
The team says that with many things in nutrition, moderation and balance is key when deciding the optimal target level of LDL cholesterol.
It is unhealthy to go to either extreme—too high or too low.
For people at high risk for hemorrhagic stroke due to family history or risk factors like high blood pressure and heavy alcohol drinking, it is important to be extra careful about LDL cholesterol levels.
The lead author of the study is Xiang Gao, associate professor of nutritional sciences and director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Lab at Penn State.
The study is published in the journal Neurology.
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