Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US and a common cause of long-term disability worldwide. Ischemic strokes, which are often atherothrombotic, account for more than 80% of all strokes. Current stroke prevention focuses on optimizing the treatment of modifiable risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia. The epidemiologic association between serum cholesterol levels and adjusted stroke rates is not as strong as the link between serum cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease. Clinical trials of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins), which are potent inhibitors of cholesterol synthesis, have demonstrated, however, a marked reduction in stroke risk in hypercholesterolemic and atherosclerotic individuals, with benefits extending to normocholesterolemic individuals. These findings suggest that statins might have additional effects in stroke protection beyond cholesterol reduction. Because statins inhibit the synthesis of isoprenoid intermediates in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, which are important lipid attachments for intracellular signaling molecules, they might have direct noncholesterol-dependent effects on inflammatory and endothelial cells. Here we discuss data from clinical trials assessing the effects of statins on stroke risk, as well as outline the mechanisms underlying the cholesterol-independent effects of statins and provide evidence-based recommendations for stroke prevention, based on achieved serum cholesterol levels in patients at risk of stroke.
- Cholesterol endothelium
- Nitric oxide statins
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine