Atherosclerosis of the ascending aorta (AAA) and severe carotid artery disease are risk factors for stroke in cardiac surgical patients. Twelve hundred of a consecutive series of 1,334 patients 50 years of age or older having a cardiac operation were screened for the presence of AAA by intraoperative ultrasonographic scanning and for the presence of carotid artery occlusive disease (791 of 798 patients ≥65 years of age and younger symptomatic patients) by carotid duplex scanning. Coronary artery disease was present in 88% of the patients. Patients with moderate or severe AAA (n = 231; 19.3% of the total) were treated by ascending aortic replacement (n = 27) or by modified, less extensive techniques (n = 168) to avoid the atherosclerotic areas. Thirty-three patients had combined carotid endarterectomy and cardiac operation. Thirty-day mortality and stroke rates for the 1,200 patients were 4.0% and 1.6%, respectively. The stroke rate was low (1.1%) among the 969 patients with no or mild AAA. It was zero among 27 patients with moderate or severe AAA who had ascending aortic replacement and among the 33 patients who had carotid endarterectomy. The stroke rates were higher for 111 patients with moderate or severe ascending aortic disease who had only minor interventions (6.3%) and for 16 patients with severe carotid artery disease who did not have carotid endarterectomy (18.7%). Screening for AAA and carotid artery disease and aggressive surgical treatment of moderate or severe AAA and severe or symptomatic carotid artery disease appears to reduce the frequency of stroke in older cardiac surgical patients.