Cholesterol-lowering drugs cut the risk of strokes by about a fifth, according to a pooled analysis of 24 past clinical studies involving 165,000 people.
The hugely successful class of drugs — a mainstay for millions of people with heart disease — also slow the movement of blockages in the carotid artery carrying blood to the brain, French researchers reported in the journal Lancet Neurology.
The meta-analysis concluded that stroke risk fell by 21 percent for each one millimole per liter decrease in the level of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.
Previous individual clinical trials have not always given a clear picture of the benefits of using statins in stroke prevention. Leading statins include Pfizer's Lipitor, AstraZeneca's Crestor and cheaper generics, such as simvastatin.
Lead researcher Pierre Amarenco from Paris-Diderot University said the next step in the field should be to assess the safety and effectiveness of further reductions in LDL cholesterol after a stroke.