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Important study points to high triglycerides for women's stroke risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Stroke risk linked to high triglycerides in postmenopausal women.

According to results of a new study, triglyceride levels are more important than cholesterol for predicting risk stroke in postmenopausal women.

Results of an analysis of data from the Hormones and Biomarkers Predicting Stroke (HaBPS) study found women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) who were in the upper quarter of high triglyceride levels were twice as likely to have suffered a stroke. High LDL and cholesterol levels were not link to stroke risk in postmenopausal women.

According to lead author Jeffrey S. Berger, MD, assistant professor of medicine and director of Cardiovascular Thrombosis at NYU School of Medicine, “This study revealed that what we've been using to evaluate risk all these years actually has little to no predictive value in older women. Triglyceride levels, however, take on a new significance. "

Ischemic stroke happens when blood supply to the brain becomes blocked from blood clots. Waxy substances in the body called lipids contribute to inflammation and blood vessel damage and clots. Another type of stroke occurs from the hemorrhage. For this study the researchers looked at ischemic stroke. Triglycerides are a type of lipid.

The current research included a national representation of 90,000 post-menopausal women whose health was monitored for 15 years.

The Hormones and Biomarkers Predicting Stroke (HaBPS) study includes the first 972 women who had a stroke during the Women’s Health Initiative study.

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"This is only the first step. It's a really important step, but it's not the end of the story," Dr. Berger said. "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."

Keeping triglyceride levels in check may be more important then known for women’s stroke prevention. Factors that contribute to high triglyceride levels include obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, excess alcohol intake, eating a high calorie diet (consuming more calories than you burn), underactive thyroid and kidney disease. Normal level, measured with a blood test, is less than 150.

The new finding could be important for women’s stroke prevention, pending more studies.

The study authors found compelling evidence that high triglyceride levels raises a woman’s risk of stroke after menopause


Published online before print February 2, 2012,
doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.64132
“Lipid and Lipoprotein Biomarkers and the Risk of Ischemic Stroke in Postmenopausal Women”
Jeffrey S. Berger et al.

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