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Memory loss could be stroke warning sign

Highly educated people with memory loss could be at greater risk of a stroke than less well-educated people with memory complaints. The memory loss can be a clear sign of a stroke in their case.

Researchers from Erasmus MC discovered this based on data from the large-scale population study ERGO in Rotterdam. They published their results online in the scientific journal Stroke van de American Heart Association.

infarct-vergeetachtig-dementEvery year, about 47,000 people in the Netherlands suffer a stroke. This is an acute brain injury caused by the blockage or tear of a blood vessel. Strokes are the leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death. Only in a limited number of cases is it known how the stroke occurs. “Various factors play a role and these factors are more closely linked than previously thought”, says Arfan Ikram, neuro-epidemiologist at Erasmus MC’s department of Epidemiology.

Earlier studies showed that a stroke could cause memory problems and eventually dementia. To gain more insight into the origin of stroke the researchers turned the relationship around and wanted to know whether memory problems could predict an increased risk of stroke. Ikram: "We found that highly educated people with memory problems have a 39% higher risk of stroke and that in this case the memory loss could be a clear sign of stroke.”

“The level of education plays an important role in this” says Ikram. “It is known that the risk of dementia and cardiovascular diseases in highly educated people is lower, but if they suffer from memory loss this is a sign to be taken seriously. The brains of highly educated people have greater cognitive reserve as a result of training at an early age. This means that they have a certain buffer if they are affected by brain diseases such as dementia later in life. They are able to endure more brain damage due to their more developed brains. Once they suffer memory problems it often means that they are also likely to have other problems and therefore also an increased risk of stroke.”

Read the full press release.

Date published: 15 December 2014.

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