According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, the myth about high cholesterol has probably murdered millions of people.
In fact, lowering your cholesterol to the recommended level of 100 mg/dL can increase your risk of having the most dangerous type of stroke by a frightening 220%.
The researchers mined data from the Women’s Health Study that included the records of 27,937 women aged 45 and up.
At the beginning of the study, these women had their total cholesterol, their LDL cholesterol, their HDL cholesterol, and their triglycerides (blood fats) measured.
The scientists observed them over an average of 19 years to see which of them suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke.
Strokes come in two forms: ischemic, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked by, for example, clogged blood vessels, and hemorrhagic, which happens when there is bleeding in the brain because of, for example, blood vessels that have burst or are weakened and leak.
A hemorrhagic stroke is much harder to treat than an ischemic one. According to the National Stroke Association, while hemorrhagic strokes only constitute 13 percent of all strokes, they are responsible for 40 percent of stroke-related deaths.
When the researchers compared women with LDL cholesterol of 70 mg/dL or lower with those with an LDL level between 100 and 130 mg/dL, they found that members of the former group were 2.2 times more likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke than members of the latter group.
This was still true after they excluded people with other stroke risks, such as high blood pressure, old age, smoking, and so forth.
But it wasn’t only LDL cholesterol that was a risk, and it was found that low triglycerides were equally bad.
Those with the lowest fasting triglyceride levels (74 mg/dL or lower) were twice as likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke as those with the highest fasting levels (156 mg/dL or higher).
Total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol, often called good cholesterol, had no effect on stroke incidents.
This study is alarming because it shows that official cholesterol recommendations are just too low. It also shows the dangers of lowering cholesterol artificially through the use of statins and other cholesterol-lowering medications.