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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 00:00 GMT
Blood fat link to strokes
Stroke patient
Around 100,000 people in England and Wales suffer a stroke every year
The number of deaths from stroke could be reduced if doctors tested patients for high levels of a type of blood fat, according to new research.

A study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that high triglycerides are a strong indicator of stroke risk.

Researchers in Israel have called on doctors to test patients for this type of blood fat as part of efforts to reduce deaths from stroke.

Up until now, tests to identify patients at risk of stroke have generally been focused on cholesterol levels and blood pressure.


Further research to investigate this area is needed to understand how everybody can help prevent heart disease and stroke

British Heart Foundation spokeswoman
But doctors at Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Hashomer say triglycerides may provide a better indicator of who is at risk of having a stroke.

Dr David Tanne, who headed the study, said patients who are at risk of stroke can have high triglycerides without having increased cholesterol levels.

High levels of triglycerides lead to increased fat particles in the blood, which can develop into fatty deposits that obstruct blood flow and increase the risk of stroke.

Dr Tanne and colleagues examined levels of triglycerides in more than 11,000 patients, 75% of whom were men, over an eight-year period.

They found that patients with high triglycerides, with a history of coronary heart disease, were one-third more likely to have a stroke.

"Our main finding in this study is that elevated blood triglycerides increase a person's risk of suffering an ischemic stroke," said Dr Tanne.

"Those with high blood triglycerides have a nearly 30% higher risk of suffering a stroke, after taking into account other risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, cigarette smoking or diabetes."

Screening

Dr Tanne suggested the finding should encourage doctors to screen for triglycerides.

"More effective screening and detection of high blood triglycerides and treatments to modify this stroke risk factor could further reduce the health burdens of stroke."

A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said further research was needed to determine the risks of stroke among those without a history of heard disease.

"As the researchers point out this research does not examine the risks of high triglyceride levels in patients who have not had heart disease, and this research is biased towards men.

"Further research to investigate this area is needed to understand how everybody can help prevent heart disease and stroke that may be linked to raised triglycerides levels."

Around 60,000 people die after a stroke every year in England and Wales. Approximately 100,000 suffer a first stroke.

Globally, about one in five survivors will suffer another stroke or heart attack within five years.

More than two-thirds of all strokes occur in people who do not have high blood pressure as defined by World Health Organization standards.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | Health
Heart drugs could save thousands
05 Sep 01 | Health
Stroke prevention - for 50p a day
03 Aug 01 | Health
'Ice baths' help stroke patients
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