Triglycerides more accurate than cholesterol at marking stroke

Traditionally, blood cholesterol levels have been used to determine the risk of stroke. However, a recent study suggests this approach may be underestimating the risk in a specific group--post-menopausal women--and monitoring a different blood fat level may be more useful.

The research team looked at blood samples from the Hormones and Biomarkers Predicting Stroke (HaBPS) study, part of the 90,000-strong NIH Women's Health Initiative. By comparing these samples with those from healthy women, researchers found that high triglyceride levels were the biomarkers most closely linked with stroke. Furthermore, women with the highest triglyceride levels were almost twice as likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest levels. The data is published in Stroke.

"This is only the first step. It's a really important step, but it's not the end of the story," said lead author Jeffrey Berger, assistant professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine. "While this study identifies subjects at increased risk of ischemic stroke, the long term goal is to reduce that risk. Future studies aimed at lowering triglyceride levels for reducing the risk of stroke are warranted."

Cholesterol levels, long thought to be critical, did not seem to have any links with stroke for this specific group. These results could lead to a major rethink in the assessment of stroke risk in post-menopausal women. While the study didn't look at any other types of patients, it will be interesting to see whether cholesterol does actually have the perceived significance in other groups, too.

- read the press release
- see the abstract