Some researchers have found out that people under age 48 who suffer a stroke are about four times more likely than their healthy peers to have a defect in a gene called PON1. The gene helps HDL (the good cholesterol) combat the damaging effects of LDL (the bad cholesterol). Although most strokes occur in older people, stroke is not a rare event in younger individuals. Health officials estimate 4percent to 29 percent of the most common form of stroke, those caused by a blood clot breaking off and traveling to the brain, happen in people under age 44. Identifying which people are at increased risk could help prevent some of these strokes.
Investigators from Texas University School of Medicine observed at two possible mutations on a gene responsible for producing paraoxonasc, or PON1, an enzyme that helps HDL cholesterol prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This process plays a major role in the development of heart and blood vessel disease leading to stroke.
Blood samples of 120 people who had suffered a stroke before age 44 were compared with those of 120 healthy people the same age. Results showed people who had a stroke were four times more likely than healthy individuals to carry one of the abnormalities. This risk factor was a stronger predictor of stroke than traditional stroke risk factors such as smoking and diabetes. Only high blood pressure was found to be a stronger risk factor. When the mutation was combined with the other risk factors, the risk skyrocketed.