Background and purpose: Epidemiological studies indicate a higher incidence of intracerebral (but not subarachnoid) hemorrhagic stroke among persons with low total serum cholesterol levels. This report further examines the prospective relationship of total serum cholesterol with subsequent intracerebral hemorrhage in a large, well-defined population.
Methods: The cohort included 61756 enrollees in a health plan from the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area (46% men, 63% white), aged 40 to 89 years and free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. Sixteen-year incidence of combined nonfatal and fatal intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke (International Classification of Diseases [ICD], 8th revision, code 431, or ICD, 9th revision, codes 431 and 432) was investigated in relation to serum cholesterol measured in multiphasic health checkups made in 1977 through 1985. Intracerebral hemorrhagic events were ascertained using hospital discharge records and as underlying cause of death by the California Mortality Linkage Information System.
Results: From 1978 through 1993 (average of 10.7 years), there were 386 events (201 in men, 29% fatal; 185 in women, 42% fatal). By multivariate proportional hazards life-table regression analysis, serum cholesterol level below the sex-specific 10th percentile (< 4.62 mmol/L [178 mg/dL] in men), compared with higher cholesterol level, was associated with a significantly increased risk of intracerebral hemorrhage in men aged 65 years or older (relative risk, 2.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.4 to 5.0). An excess risk was also observed among elderly women at the lowest cholesterol range, but a chance finding could not be ruled out. No relationship was seen among men or women aged 40 to 64, and no statistical interaction of low serum cholesterol with hypertension was found in either sex.
Conclusions: In these data, the association between low serum cholesterol level and intracerebral hemorrhage was confined to elderly men.