Statins, such as Lipitor and Mevacor, are very popular drugs for lowering high cholesterol levels. Now, new research suggests that they can help prevent strokes even in patients who do not have high cholesterol levels.

In the study, which goes by the acronym JUPITER, treatment with the statin Crestor (rosuvastatin) cut the risk of stroke by nearly half. While all of the subjects had optimal levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol, they did have high blood levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation in the body.

Dr. Robert Glynn of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, one of the main researchers, announced the latest analysis of the JUPITER data at the International Stroke Conference 2009, sponsored by the American Heart Association's American Stroke Association.

JUPITER involved 17,802 subjects. All of them had good LDL cholesterol levels and no history of heart disease, diabetes or other significant illness. All, however, had high levels of C-reactive protein.

Compared to subjects given inactive "placebo," the group that received rosuvastatin had a 48 percent reduction in their risk of stroke.

"Treatment was effective for all subgroups," Glynn reported. "In particular, there was a remarkably significant benefit for high risk groups," including smokers, elderly people, and other individuals at risk for stroke. "There was no difference in the benefit derived from treatment during the first two years and later years."

"Despite evaluating a population with (cholesterol) levels considered to be 'optimal'..., the relative benefit of stroke observed in JUPITER was greater than in almost all prior statin trials," the investigators concluded.