Patients who stop taking cholesterol-lowering drugs three to six months after their first stroke face a higher risk of another stroke, and an increased risk of hospitalization and death, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Those who’d had an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke, and stopped taking high- or moderate-intensity statins within three months of leaving the hospital had a 42 percent increased risk of another stroke and 37 percent higher risk of death in general. Patients who continued on a decreased dose of statins had no additional risk of another stroke or death.

“Based on our findings of this large group of patients in the ‘real world,’ we believe that statins should be a lifelong therapy for ischemic stroke patients if a statin is needed to lower cholesterol,” said Meng Lee, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Chang Gung University College of Medicine in Taiwan.

Another study published in the same journal showed that only 49 percent of stroke patients received a prescription for statins when they got out of the hospital — and their age, race, gender and where they lived influenced whether or not they’d get it.

“All survivors of ischemic stroke should be evaluated to determine whether they could benefit from a statin, regardless of the patient’s age, race, sex or geographic residence,” said Karen Albright, Ph.D., D.O., advanced fellow in the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

Compared to other areas, death from stroke is more common in the southeastern United States — the so-called Stroke Belt — of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Previous studies have shown that statin prescriptions are lower among stroke patients discharged in the south and among blacks, women and older patients.