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Blocked Arteries Alone Can Lead to Strokes

Update Date: Mar 01, 2013 09:54 AM EST

The risk for strokes can dramatically increase based solely from the plaque in the arteries, a new study reports. The study, published in the American Heart Association Journal, Stroke, found that blocked arteries alone could contribute to strokes in people who appear to be considered a low risk for stokes. The lead author of this study, Dirk M. Hermann from the University Hospital Essen in Germany, traced the causes of a stroke, which is considered a neurological problem to heart complications. Hermann, who is a professor of vascular neurology and dementia at the university stresses that this new research connects the "cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease."

In this long-term study, Hermann and his team analyzed the standard CT scans of heart arteries from 4,180 male and female participants. The researchers randomly selected these patients, who were from the ages of 45 to 75 and had never had a stroke or heart attack. Through the use of a non-invasive electron beam-computed tomography, which is a machine that uses waves to take images, the researchers were able to see how much plaque was present within the walls of the arteries. The team followed up on the patients eight years later and recorded that 92 strokes, 82 were ischemic and 10 were hemorrhagic happened. An ischemic stroke results from a blood clot in the brain, where as bleeding in the brain causes a hemorrhagic stroke.

When the researchers compared the scans of the plaque, also known as coronary artery calcification (CAC), from eight years ago, they found that the patients with a higher CAC were also more susceptible to getting at least one stroke.  A CAC measuring above 400 Hounsfield Units, which is the measurement of the density of tissue, increased the risk for a stroke by three times when compared to a CAC below 399 HU.

This research is vital in helping doctors pre-screen patients and measure the patients' risks for a stroke. After the British study revealed how certain brain cells can protect against a stroke (Brain's Mechanism in Fighting Strokes Revealed), this study can further stroke research by finding ways to prevent it from happening. 

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