Many American stroke patients have cholesterol levels higher than the national guidelines. A number of these patients may not have had a stroke if their cholesterol had been properly managed by following the guidelines.

The Study

Researchers found that 27% of 1,040 people hospitalized for stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA, a short-term reduction in blood flow to the brain resulting in temporary symptoms like numbness, weakness and inability to talk) had cholesterol levels higher than the national guidelines.

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

"Studies have shown that these drugs reduce the risk of stroke, so it's probable that, if the guidelines had been followed, at least some of these strokes and TIAs would have never happened," Smith said.

The study also found that 30% of the stroke TIA patients previously diagnosed with high cholesterol, and 19% of those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, did not have ideal cholesterol levels, which are based on a person'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.

He said the study findings suggest that all people hospitalized with stroke or TIA should have their cholesterol levels checked, and those with high levels should be treated to lower their cholesterol.

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