ST. PAUL, Minn - Healthy women with no history of heart disease or stroke significantly increase their chances of having a stroke if they have high cholesterol, according to a study of more than 27,000 women published in the February 20, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
"Our findings further underscore the importance of cholesterol levels as a risk factor for stroke, even if you have no history of heart disease and are otherwise healthy," said study author Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD, with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
The 11-year study involved women from the United States and Puerto Rico who were part of the Women's Health Study. All of the women were health care professionals who were at least age 45, had no history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other major illness. Cholesterol levels were taken at the beginning of the study.
According to researchers, 282 strokes occurred during the 11-year period, meaning nine out of every 10,000 women had a stroke each year. The study found a strong association between total cholesterol levels and later stroke.
"Our findings show otherwise healthy women with high cholesterol were more than twice as likely to suffer a stroke compared to healthy women with lower cholesterol levels," said Kurth. "Our data strongly supports the notion that cholesterol levels are a biologic risk factor for stroke and that avoiding unfavorable cholesterol levels may help prevent stroke."
Kurth said there were several limitations to the study, including that cholesterol levels were measured only once and that participants in the study were all health professionals and mostly white.
The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and grants from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and the Leducq Foundation.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 20,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.
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