- New research finds that taking statins may help reduce the risk of stroke in people who have atrial fibrillation.
- People with atrial fibrillation have a five times greater risk of stroke compared to the general population.
- The new findings add to growing evidence that statin use may help prevent stroke and cardiovascular mortality in people with atrial fibrillation.
The findings, which were presented at the Annual Congress of the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) over the weekend, show that statin use was associated with a 17% lower risk of ischemic stroke or systemic embolism in people with atrial fibrillation.
People with atrial fibrillation who took statins also had a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke (where a blood vessel ruptures leading to bleeding) and
Those with atrial fibrillation — an irregular heartbeat that can disrupt blood flow — have a five times greater risk of developing stroke compared to the general population, and, until now, it’s been unclear if statins can help prevent strokes specifically among those with atrial fibrillation.
“These data add more support to use statins in [atrial fibrillation] patients to decrease risk of stroke and [transient ischemic attack] events which can be one of the most catastrophic outcomes associated with [atrial fibrillation],” Dr. Nikhil Warrier, a board-certified cardiac electrophysiologist and medical director of electrophysiology at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, told Healthline.
To determine if statins cut the risk of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients, the researchers evaluated the health data of 51,472 patients who were newly diagnosed with AF between 2010 and 2018.
Of the group, 11,866 were statin users and 39,606 did not take statins.
The research team then tracked how many patients experienced an ischemic stroke or systemic embolism, hemorrhagic stroke, and transient ischemic attack through October 2022.
They found that statin users had a lower risk of stroke and ischemic attack compared to the group that didn’t take statins.
Statin use was linked to a 17% reduced risk of ischemic stroke or systemic embolism, a 7% lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke, and a 15% lower risk of transient ischemic stroke.
The longer people took statins, the lower their risk was.
Compared to people who’d only been taking statins for less than two years, those who’d been taking the medication for at least six years had a 43% lower risk of ischemic stroke or systemic embolism and a 42% lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
The researchers say the findings show that long-term statin use can be useful in preventing stroke among people with atrial fibrillation.
“This study of more than 50,000 patients shows a significant link between statin use and reduced stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Sarina van der Zee, a board-certified cardiac electrophysiologist and cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
Warrier says atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia that electrophysiologists deal with.
Statins are widely used to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, however, it’s been unclear how well the therapies work to prevent stroke in atrial fibrillation patients.
“Lowering cholesterol and treating atrial fibrillation have been thought of as separate issues, but this shows a link between the two. Treating one could help the other,” van der Zee says.
“Anything that we can do to minimize the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular sequelae associated with [atrial fibrillation] is a welcome finding,” adds Warrier.
If you have atrial fibrillation and are concerned about your risk of stroke, ask your doctor if statins may be a good option for you.
“Patients should discuss this data with their cardiologist and see if statin therapy is indicated for them,” Warrier said.
Statins, which are widely used to lower blood cholesterol levels and protect people from stroke and heart attacks, can lower the risk of stroke in people with atrial fibrillation, too, new research shows. People with atrial fibrillation have a five times greater risk of stroke compared to the general population, and until now, it’s been unclear if statins can lower the risk of stroke, specifically, in people with atrial fibrillation. The new findings suggest the therapy can cut the risk of stroke by 17%, and the longer people with atrial fibrillation take statins, the more protection they’ll have against stroke.