Statins have low risk of side effects

The cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins have demonstrated substantial benefits in reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by blood clots (ischemic strokes) in at-risk patients. Since statins are associated with a low risk of side effects, the benefits of taking them outweigh the risks, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association that reviewed multiple studies evaluating the safety and potential side effects of these drugs. It is published in the Association’s journal Circulation: Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

According to the statement, one in four Americans over the age of 40 takes a statin drug, but up to 10 percent of people in the United States stop taking them because they experience symptoms that they may assume are due to the drug, but may not be.

“In most cases, you should not stop taking your statin medication if you think you are having side effects from the drug — instead, talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Stopping a statin can significantly increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke caused by a blocked artery,” said Mark Creager, M.D., former president of the American Heart Association and director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

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Experimental vaccine may reduce post-stroke blood clot risk

A vaccine may one day be able to replace oral blood thinners to reduce the risk of secondary strokes caused by blood clots, without increasing the risk of serious bleeding or triggering an autoimmune response, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

People who have had a stroke caused by a blood clot (ischemic strokes) often need to take medications that make their blood less likely to clot, which helps prevent another stroke.

Japanese researchers successfully tested an experimental vaccine in mice and found that it provided protection against blood clots for more than two months without increasing the risk of bleeding or causing an autoimmune response. The lack of an autoimmune response is important, because it means the mice’s immune system did not perceive the vaccine as an “intruder” that needed to be attacked, which would have caused a reaction to the vaccine.

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Is prehospital stroke treatment associated with better outcomes?

When treating a patient with stroke, every minute counts. A specialized stroke ambulance (Stroke Emergency Mobile or STEMO) allows physicians to start specific treatment, such as thrombolysis, at scene. A recent study conducted by researchers from Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin investigated whether this earlier response time leads to an improved prognosis. Patients who received the appropriate treatment during transfer to the hospital were less likely to have a disability three months after their stroke than patients who received conventional treatment. Although the difference in surviving without any disability slightly failed to reach the predefined level of significance, other outcomes such as severe disability or death were also more favorable in the STEMO group. Results from this study have been published in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

Approximately 90% of strokes are ischemic strokes, i.e. they are caused by a blood clot blocking an artery in the brain. Arterial blockages of this kind can be dissolved by thrombolytic therapy. However, approximately 10% of strokes are caused by bleeding inside the brain (hemorraghic stroke). As such bleedings would be unstoppable under thrombolytic therapy, it is essential to exclude cerebral bleedings before starting treatment. Physicians achieve this by using computed tomography (CT) for brain scanning, usually in hospital.

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New imaging technique may give physicians clearer picture of stroke damage

According to the American Heart Association, ischemic strokes account for nearly 90 percent of all strokes. They occur when a blocked artery prevents blood from getting to the brain and usually result in long-term disability or death. Now, a team of researchers led by the University of Missouri School of Medicine has developed a new, real-time method of imaging molecular events after strokes — a finding that may lead to improved care for patients.

“During an ischemic stroke, harmful enzymes called gelatinase become overactive in areas of the brain where blood flow is cut off,” said Zezong Gu, Ph.D., an associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “Over-activation of these enzymes causes brain damage. Our team hypothesized that if we could visualize and track this activity in real-time, we could then work on developing a way to block the activity and prevent brain damage from occurring.”

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to diagnose strokes because it produces precise, sectional images of the brain. Although these images can verify the region of arterial blockages within the brain, current contrast agents are not specific or sensitive enough to reveal important molecular events, such as gelatinase activity, on an MRI image.

Full story of new imaging technique for stroke damage at Science Daily