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Stroke Symptoms Linked to Cognitive Decline

Update Date: Jun 19, 2013 03:18 PM EDT

People who have never had a stroke but experience stroke symptoms are more likely to develop problems with memory and thinking, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 23,830 people with an average age of 64 with no memory problems and who had never had a stroke.  The participants were asked to complete a stroke symptoms questionnaire at the start of the study and ever six months for at least two year.  The questionnaire asks about symptoms of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), or a "mini-stroke" where symptoms resolve quickly with no permanent damage. Researchers also tested participants' memory and thinking skills every year. 

The study revealed that during the study, 7,233 people had stroke symptoms.  Researchers found that people who had stroke symptoms were more likely to develop memory and thinking problems.

The study revealed that Caucasians who had stroke symptoms were twice as likely to develop cognitive problems compared to Caucasians who did not have stroke symptoms.  Researchers found that African Americans who had stroke symptoms were nearly 70 percent as likely to develop thinking problems as African-Americans who did not have stroke symptoms.

"Our study highlights the importance of discussing stroke-like symptoms with your family doctor, even if they don't last long. These symptoms can be a warning sign that a person is at increased risk of stroke or problems with thinking or memory," researcher Dr. Brendan J. Kelley, of the University of Cincinnati and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a news release.

"'Silent strokes' that cause small areas of brain damage have been tied to memory and thinking problems, but it has been difficult to study these 'silent strokes' due to the cost and inconvenience of obtaining brain MRIs," Kelley said.

"With this study, we found that a quick, seven-question test can be a cost-effective tool to help identify people at increased risk of developing dementia," he added.

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