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Why Young People Have Strokes: Unraveling the Mystery

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Although stroke resulting from blocked arteries in the young is a relatively rare event, Albucher suggests that doctors should be especially careful in monitoring HDL cholesterol levels in young patients, whether or not they demonstrate signs of narrowing of blood vessel walls.

Shalini Bansil, MD, a neurologist who specializes in stroke management at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., was not surprised by the findings.

"Abnormalities in cholesterol are believed to be one of the risk factors of stroke. ... We previously just studied total cholesterol. We now know that you want the 'good cholesterol,' HDL, to be high and the 'bad cholesterol,' LDL, to be low."

Although HDL was found to be most important in this study, Bansil doesn't discount the importance of LDL. "Although the studies are not definitive, there are a lot more studies on LDL. That's what is thought of as the bigger culprit," she tells WebMD.

Bansil suggests that although narrowing of the arteries was not noticeable in most of the young stroke patients, they may still have the tendency to develop it later on. "You just can't detect the atherosclerosis because they're still young and it hasn't started to develop yet," she says.

She advises patients to have total cholesterol, as well as the subtypes of cholesterol, checked regularly. "Everyone should have these monitored, but especially if they have had a stroke." She says that if you have already had a stroke, cholesterol-lowering drugs may be appropriate to help prevent further strokes.

For more information from WebMD, visit our Diseases and Conditions Stroke page.

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