Brain Function Affected Stroke Risk

Cognitive decline linked with increased risk of stroke in older adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) After a stroke, patients often show slower brain function. But declining memory and attention in stroke-free adults may be a risk factor for future strokes.

Researchers recently examined older adults' changing cognitive functions over about a decade. They found that participants with slower brain function were more likely to have a stroke later in life.

Also, patients who had a stroke had much faster cognitive decline than those who did not.

"Talk to your neurologist about ways to prevent stroke."

The study was conducted by Kumar Rajan, PhD, of the Department of Internal Medicine at the Rush University Medical Center, and colleagues.

A stroke, which is caused by interrupted blood flow to the brain, often leads to cognitive impairment (slowed brain function) among survivors.

This study looked at the link between stroke and cognitive function in older adults.

The researchers recruited a group of 7,217 older adults who had no history of stroke to participate. They interviewed the participants every three years.

The researchers determined whether participants had experienced a stroke or died over the course of the study using medical data from Medicare claims and the National Death Index.

Over the course of the study, 1,187 participants (16 percent) had a stroke.

The researchers associated lower-than-average cognitive function at the start of the study with a 62 percent higher chance of having a stroke. Also, among patients who had strokes, cognitive function declined almost twice as fast as that of patients who were stroke-free.

The combination of stroke and slowed brain function also increased the risk of death.

The researchers concluded that declining cognitive abilities were a strong predictor of stroke. They suggested that preventing cognitive decline in older adults may also help prevent stroke.

The authors acknowledged some study limitations. One limitation was the three-year period between cognitive evaluations for the patients, which limited the authors' ability to note short-term changes in cognitive function.

The study was published Aug. 7 in Stroke.

The National Institutes of Health provided funding. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 7, 2014
Last Updated:
August 7, 2014