Goldilocks didn’t know beans about cholesterol, but she was an expert on porridge. That’s not too hot, not too cold. We wish cardiologist were more willing to follow her example.
Everybody knows that when cholesterol is too high, it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But cholesterol if too high, it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But cholesterol that is too low can also be dangerous.
A recent study has confirmed that low cholesterol increases the risk of bleeding stroke. These events are less common that strokes caused by blood clots, but they are potentially even more devastating.
Dr. David L. Tirschwell reported to the American Heart Association that people with cholesterol levels below180 had twice the risk of strokes caused by bleeding into the brain as people with cholesterol counts around 230.
This is not to suggest that high cholesterol isn’t a problem: By the time cholesterol gets up to 280, the risk of stroke caused by a blood clot doubles, compared to the risk for people with cholesterol around 230. The ideal, according to Tirschwell, is probably to keep cholesterol near 200.
Although Dr. Tirschwell’s research is new, the finding that low cholesterol may put people at risk is not. In 1989 Japanese researchers found that men with cholesterol below 178 and women with readings lower than 190 had a higher risk of cerebral hemorrhage.
That same year, a large American study revealed that men with diastolic blood pressure above 90 and cholesterol below 160 were 6 times more likely to die from a bleeding stroke. And back in 1986, investigators reported results from a long-term study in Honolulu that middle-aged men were safest when their cholesterol was between 200 and 220.
Those with cholesterol below 150 had 4 times the risk of bleeding stroke. And if people do have strokes, the lower their cholesterol, the poorer the outcome.