To date there is no diagnostic biomarker for mild stroke, although elevation of inflammatory biomarkers has been reported at early stages. Previous studies implicated acetylcholinesterase (AChE) involvement in stroke, and circulating AChE activity reflects inflammatory response, since acetylcholine suppresses inflammation. Therefore, carriers of polymorphisms that modify cholinergic activity should be particularly susceptible to inflammatory damage. Our study sought diagnostic values of AChE and Cholinergic Status (CS, the total capacity for acetylcholine hydrolysis) in suspected stroke patients. For this purpose, serum cholinesterase activities, butyrylcholinesterase-K genotype and inflammatory biomarkers were determined in 264 ischemic stroke patients and matched controls during the acute phase. AChE activities were lower (P < 0.001), and butyrylcholinesterase activities were higher in patients than in controls (P = 0.004). When normalized to sampling time from stroke occurrence, both cholinergic parameters were correlated with multiple inflammatory biomarkers, including fibrinogen, interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein (r = 0.713, r = 0.607; r = 0.421, r = 0.341; r = 0.276, r = 0.255; respectively; all P values < 0.001). Furthermore, very low AChE activities predicted subsequent nonsurvival (P = 0.036). Also, carriers of the unstable butyrylcholinesterase-K variant were more abundant among patients than controls, and showed reduced activity (P < 0.001). Importantly, a cholinergic score combining the two cholinesterase activities discriminated between 94.3% matched pairs of patients and controls, compared with only 75% for inflammatory measures. Our findings present the power of circulation cholinesterase measurements as useful early diagnostic tools for the occurrence of stroke. Importantly, these were considerably more distinctive than the inflammatory biomarkers, albeit closely associated with them, which may open new venues for stroke diagnosis and treatment.