High cholesterol and risk of TIA and stroke

Cholesterol is a fatty substance necessary for all living tissue. The body manufactures most of the cholesterol we need. Additional cholesterol is taken in from certain foods we eat.

Too much cholesterol in the blood is not healthy because it can build up in the walls of arteries, narrowing and hardening blood vessels (atherosclerosis). Narrowed blood vessels are able to carry less blood and may increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack.

Lowering cholesterol is important, especially for people who are at risk for transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. Diet changes and, if necessary, medications can be used to keep blood cholesterol at a healthy level.

Treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins can slow the development of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries for some people and may reduce the chance of having a TIA or stroke.1 For more information on these medications, see the topic High Cholesterol.


  1. MacMahon S, et al. (1998). Effects of lowering average or below-average cholesterol levels on the progression of carotid atherosclerosis: Results of the LIPID atherosclerosis substudy. Circulation, 97(18): 1784–1790.

Last Updated: November 11, 2009

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