Following a stroke, people’s memory and thinking speed drop the equivalent of aging 7.9 years overnight. More than 4,900 study participants over the age of 65 were scored on a 27-item test and the resulting data was analyzed by a team of researchers.
For the stroke-effect study, whose results will appear in the journal Stroke in July, researchers combined two sources of information; on one hand, they conducted and analyzed detailed surveys.
The second and most reliable source came from years of data provided by an extensive national study conducted on senior Americans, cross-referenced with the Medicare records of the same people. This data consisted of memory tests and measurements of thinking speed.
First cognitive tests were taken in 1998, and the researchers were looking for participants with no recent history of cognitive issues, strokes, or dementia, but who suffered a confirmed stroke in the 14-year follow-up period after the initial tests.
Next step was comparing and identifying changes in the performance patients had on cognitive tests before and after they had suffered a stroke. These tests were repeated over the years from 1998 to 2012, showing that stroke-affected participants did significantly worse after the health accident.
Researchers believe the study’s results highlight the importance that stroke prevention has, even though awareness campaigns aren’t usually targeted for this specific health hazard.
Considering that the average results showed a single stroke has the ability of aging the patient’s brain with eight years in cognitive health, the medical community should be more engaged in helping the population prevent such an unfortunate event.
Strokes do not see color, racial or ethnic backgrounds – all demographics can certainly benefit from following a few steps that would help reduce risk of a stroke. Being active even during old age, stopping smoking – and avoiding smoke-filled environments – cholesterol and blood pressure control and monitoring of blood sugar in diabetes, are all very good approaches.
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