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People with Cognitive Impairment have a Greater Risk of Stroke

Update Date: Aug 25, 2014 12:09 PM EDT

In a new study, researchers examined the link between stroke risk and cognitive health. The team found that people with cognitive impairment have a greater risk of stroke in comparison to people with normal cognitive functio. The researchers hope that by identifying people who are at risk of stroke, they can better prevent strokes from occurring.

"Given the projected substantial rise in the number of older people around the world, prevalence rates of cognitive impairment and stroke are expected to soar over the next several decades, especially in high-income countries," Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele, Chair of the Department of Neurology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, with coauthors, wrote according to the press release.

In this study, the international team of researchers from the U.S., Taiwan and South Korea reviewed data taken from 18 studies, which were mainly conducted in North America and Europe. There were a total of 121,879 people who had some form of cognitive impairment. 7,799 of them had experienced a stroke.

The researchers compared the stroke incidence rate in people with cognitive impairment to the rate in people without mental health problems. They calculated that people with cognitive impairment were 39 percent more likely to suffer from a stroke at baseline than people with normal mental health functions.

"This risk increased to 64% when a broadly adopted definition of cognitive impairment was used," the authors stated.

Even though the team did not identify why stroke risk increased, they reasoned that people with cognitive impairment have a higher incidence rate of brain infarcts, atherosclerosis, inflammation and other vascular problems. These factors can all increase risk of stroke.

The team concluded, "Cognitive impairment should be more broadly recognized as a possible early clinical manifestation of cerebral infarction, so that timely management of vascular risk factors can be instituted to potentially prevent future stroke events and to avoid further deterioration of cognitive health."

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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