Statin Use Cuts Risks of Stroke by 40 per cent
Strokes have fallen by 40 per cent in just 16 years thanks to the growing use of statins.
The prescribing of blood pressure drugs have also helped cause rates to plummet among older people – those most vulnerable to their devastating effects.
Huge advances have been made in the treatment of patients with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Six million Britons take drugs to lower their blood pressure, usually for life. In addition, more than eight million take statins to reduce cholesterol levels – meaning these are now the most widely prescribed drugs in Britain.
Many older people have also heeded campaigns to have medical checks, and to make lifestyle changes such as cutting back on salt.
As a result, the incidence of strokes has dropped from 247 per 100,000 in 1995 to 149.5 in 2010, according to researchers at King’s College London.
Professor Graham MacGregor, chairman of charity Blood Pressure UK, said stroke rates were plummeting ‘throughout the UK’ as a result of better treatments.
‘We’ve got better blood pressure drugs now and they are used more effectively,’ he said. ‘In the past GPs would prescribe one drug.
‘But we now know they work more effectively in combination, and they are often more acceptable to patients, with fewer side effects, so they take them and don’t leave them in the medicines cupboard.
‘Statins cut the risk of stroke by 30 to 40 per cent so they have also played a part, but we need to do more.’ He said the study demonstrated a huge proportion of strokes were preventable.
‘Every patient who ends up on a stroke ward is a sorry indictment of our failure to help prevent it,’ he said.
Dr Yanzhong Wang, lecturer in medical statistics at King’s College London and lead author of the research, said ‘This study on the trends in stroke is the most comprehensive in the UK. It shows a 40 per cent overall reduction of stroke over 16 years, which is good news.’
Strokes affect around 152,000 Britons each year, often triggered by high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
Patients with hypertension – the medical term for high blood pressure – are routinely advised to change their lifestyle and eat less salt, lose weight, drink less alcohol, eat more fruit and vegetables and exercise more.
The study, published in the medical journal Stroke analysed records on 4,245 patients living in South London who had their first-ever stroke between 1995 and 2010. But the findings are likely to apply to the rest of the country, say researchers.
The rate fell in men, women, white groups and those aged more than 45. But it did not drop among those aged 15 to 44 years and black groups. ‘The reasons for this are not entirely clear but it could be because of a rise in diabetes and obesity in these groups,’ Dr Wang said.
‘If this trend is not reversed we could face a major public health concern because long-term disability, as a result of stroke, will put a strain on health and social care services.’
Researchers are calling for greater efforts to identify younger people at risk, including those with diabetes.
Co-author Professor Tony Rudd said: ‘It is essential we begin to understand the reasons for the differences in incidence and how we can address them. Without this we are only going to see widening health inequalities amongst the UK population.’