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MUSC researcher, colleagues find increased risk of stroke in people with cognitive impairment

Staff Reports | MUSC News Center | August 26, 2014

MUSC neurologist Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele is one of the authors of a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

People with cognitive impairment are significantly more likely to have a stroke than people with normal cognitive function, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"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," said study author Bruce Ovbiagele, M.D., Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Department of Neurology chairman.

Cognitive impairment and stroke are major contributors to disability and stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Although stroke is linked to the development and worsening of cognitive impairment, it is not known whether the reverse is true. Previous studies that have looked at the link between cognitive impairment and subsequent stroke have been inconsistent in their findings.

Researchers analyzed data from 121,879 people with cognitive impairment, of whom 7,799 later had strokes. They observed a significantly higher rate of stroke in people with cognitive impairment than in people with normal cognitive function. "We found that the risk of future stroke was 39 percent higher among patients with cognitive impairment at baseline than among those with normal cognitive function at baseline," the authors said. "This risk increased to 64 percent when a broadly adopted definition of cognitive impairment was used."

Blockage of blood vessels in the brain (brain infarcts), atherosclerosis, inflammation and other vascular conditions are associated with a higher risk of stroke and cognitive impairment and may contribute to the increased risk.

How to Recognize a Stroke

Ovbiagele said quick recognition that a person is having a stroke leads to earlier treatment and can dramatically affect a person's outcome. He explains it from the head down, noting that virtually all stroke patients have at least one of these five symptoms. There are:

·      Head – A very severe headache – like the worst of your life

·      Eyes – A change in vision, either double or blurred vision

·      Mouth – difficulty speaking or slurred speech

·      Limbs – Numbness or paralysis in an arm or leg on one side

·      Legs – Difficulty walking as if a person were drunk

“The key is sudden onset. What separates stroke from virtually everything else is that it’s like a bolt out of the blue. One minute you’re totally fine, the next minute something changes. It’s always drastic. That blood vessel suddenly gets blocked or that blood vessel suddenly breaks and you have symptoms immediately. If you have one of those symptoms that comes out of the blue, you should call 911 immediately.”



  Related Video

Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele
Dr. Bruce Ovbiagele discusses the statistics of stroke patients in the United States

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