The risk factors of ischemic cerebrovascular disorders in 77 young patients (< or = 40 years) were compared to those in 138 older patients (> 40 years). The risk factor profile of patients with juvenile stroke was considerably different from that of older patients. Migrainous headache and mitral valve prolapse occurred more frequently in the younger age group, whereas hypertension, diabetes mellitus, high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides were found more often in older patients with stroke. 65% of the women under the age of 40 took oral contraceptives which compares to the baseline community value of 28% of women in childbearing age in this country. Cardiac disorders such as atrial fibrillation, left ventricular hypertrophy, coronary heart disease including a history of myocardial infarction, as well as mitral valve disease were demonstrated more often in the group of elderly patients. 7 out of 77 younger patients (9.1%), and 59 out of 138 older patients (42.8%) were considered to belong to a group with "high cardiac risk for stroke". The results of this study indicate that electrocardiographic screening is of prime importance for detecting cardiac risk factors. However, echocardiographic examination often yields additional diagnostic information, particularly in younger patients. The conflicting opinions concerning the relevance of certain risk factors for ischemic stroke could partly be explained by the fact that these risk factors are distributed unevenly depending on age.