Quick Memory Loss May Be Stroke Harbinger

Stroke may be predicted by severe and rapid memory loss

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Outside of the classic cardiovascular symptoms, there may be a more unusual symptom that could predict a future fatal stroke. There appears to be a link to severe memory loss in the years leading up to a stroke.

A recent study found that those who died following a stroke had more severe memory loss in the years leading up to a stroke as compared to individuals who did not have a stroke.

"See a neurologist if you suspect memory loss."

Qianyi Wang, the study’s lead author and a graduate student at the Harvard University School of Public Health, said that investigators were surprised to discover that those who died after a stroke had such sharp memory declines in the years before the stroke.

During the study researchers followed 11,814 individuals over the age of 50, examining them every two years to check for signs of declining memory. Patients had never had a stroke at the start of the 10-year study. Participants continued in the study even if they survived a stroke.

Researchers recorded 11,814 strokes, which includes 364 patients who died following a stroke but before they were able to complete the memory assignment, which consisted of a word-recall list and an interview with a spouse or caregiver.

Investigators compared average memory loss on an annual basis for participants in three groups including: those who were stroke-free, individuals who survived a stroke, and those who died following a stroke.

They found that the average memory score declined 0.078 points among patients who did not have a stroke, 0.137 points for patients who survived a stroke during the study, and 0.205 points for patients who died from stroke during the study.

Stroke survivors had a worse average memory compared to those who did not have a stroke. They calculated that when a stroke occurred, their memory function dropped 0.321 points, equivalent to aging 4.1 years.

Researchers suggested that rapid memory decline prior to stroke may be linked to deadly strokes because many patients have worse underlying disease or conditions before the stroke, or because memory impairment may make them more susceptible to stroke and dying.

The clinical study was presented today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2012 in New Orleans.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 31, 2012
Last Updated:
February 1, 2012