Many Stroke Patients Have High Cholesterol

Getting levels under control could prevent many of these attacks, experts say

MONDAY, Feb. 26, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- An alarming number of U.S. stroke patients have cholesterol levels that exceed those recommended by experts, new research shows.

Published in the Feb. 27 issue of Neurology, the new study assessed the cholesterol levels of 1,040 people hospitalized for stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), often referred to as "mini-stroke."

The researchers found that 27 percent of the participants had cholesterol levels higher than is recommended by national guidelines.

"If this high cholesterol had been recognized, and the guidelines been followed, then 93 percent of these people would have been treated with cholesterol-lowering drugs," Dr. Eric Smith, with the Massachusetts General Hospital Stroke Service in Boston, said in a prepared statement.

The cholesterol guidelines were published in 2001 by the National Cholesterol Education Program and modified in 2004 with even lower ideal cholesterol levels proposed as an option for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Smith said that since cholesterol drugs can reduce the risk of stroke, some of the strokes and TIAs among the participants in the study may have been prevented if the cholesterol guidelines had been followed.

Even people who had previously been diagnosed with high cholesterol and those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs had less-than-optimal cholesterol levels. Specifically, 30 percent of those with previously diagnosed high cholesterol and 19 percent of those taking cholesterol drugs were not at their ideal cholesterol level, which is based on an individual's risk of stroke or heart disease.

"Unfortunately, we found that the people who were at the greatest risk for a stroke or heart attack were also the least likely to be at the guideline-recommended cholesterol levels," Smith said.

Smith believes that cholesterol levels should be tested in anyone who is hospitalized with a stroke or TIA, and any high levels should be treated.

"We can't assume that people taking cholesterol drugs are at their ideal levels for preventing stroke and heart disease," he said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about cholesterol levels.

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