The risk of bleeding strokes is significantly higher than usual among men who have very low cholesterol levels but high blood pressure, a study published Thursday concludes.

The research found that men with blood cholesterol levels under 160 were three times more likely than those with higher cholesterol levels to suffer bleeding strokes. But this increase appeared to be explained entirely by a substantially higher risk in those with high blood pressure.The researchers said the findings should not be taken as an excuse to stop trying to lower cholesterol to prevent heart disease.

Of the 350,977 men studied, 3,986 had unusually low cholesterol levels - under 160 milligrams per deciliter of blood, and diastolic blood pressures above 90, which is considered to be elevated. In this group, there were nine bleeding strokes, a rate that works out to 23 strokes for every 10,000 men.

By comparison, among men with low cholesterol but low blood pressure as well, there were just under two bleeding strokes per 10,000 people, the same as for all men with low blood pressure.

The men with low cholesterol levels did not face any unusual risk of strokes resulting from blood clots inside the brain. These are more common than bleeding strokes.