A new study finds that an unusual, harsh sound that doctors can hear when passing a stethoscope over a main artery to the brain could, besides stroke, also indicate an increased risk of heart attack and death from heart disease and stroke.

This sound is called a carotid bruit and is caused by turbulent blood flow due to buildup of fatty deposits in one of the two arteries carrying blood to the front and middle part of the brain.
Results of 22 studies have shown that people with carotid bruits are more than twice as likely to have heart attacks or die of cardiovascular disease. Carotid bruits should heighten clinician concern for coronary heart disease.

Over 17,000 people have been studied for an average of four years.
Other cardiologists who did not participate in the study said that using the presence of a bruit as an indicator of cardiovascular risk could be helpful but that there are also some questions to be answered about the usefulness of carotid bruit and prognosis. They thought that there was no value of carotid bruit in cases where patients already had cardiovascular disease. Secondly, some patients who don't have carotid bruit may have other evidence of cardiovascular disease.

Other studies have shown that starting preventive measures for stroke on the basis of screening for carotid bruit aren't useful, however, the presence of carotid bruit could prompt physicians to be more aggressive in recommending measures to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as cholesterol reduction.

It has been shown that there's a link between the risk of stroke and of coronary heart disease and this study helps put a number on how high the risk is.