Cognitive decline may be able to predict stroke ’10 years’ beforehand

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Characterised as life-threatening, stroke describes a medical emergency triggered by a cut-off blood supply to a part of your brain. While slurred speech or weakness in one arm are some of the key signs signalling that the emergency has struck, there’s one sign that could predict the event 10 years beforehand, according to research.

Although there’s no miracle manual that can tell you whether and when emergencies like stroke might target you, research suggests that actually one sign could point to a higher risk of a stroke happening.

Published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, the research managed to identify a “tell-tale” sign that could predict a higher risk of stroke – cognitive decline.

What’s more, the study suggests it may ring alarm bells up to 10 years before the medical emergency even occurs.

Being recognised as an early sign of dementia, cognitive decline details worsening or more frequent confusion and memory loss, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains.

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According to the research, stroke patients experienced much steeper cognitive decline as well as problems with routine daily functioning.

These brain problems would start around a decade before the participants suffered their first stroke.

The research team gained this data by looking at 14,712 people within a population-based Rotterdam Study.

They investigated the subjects’ ability to go about their daily lives, focusing on tasks like washing, eating and dressing.

However, the researchers also considered more advanced activities such as being able to manage finances.

The stroke incidence was assessed through monitoring the cohort’s medical records between 1990 all the way to 2018.

The researchers then plotted the changes in cognition and daily functioning in both sets of participants, to include the 10 years before and the 10 years after a stroke. 

This showed that those who had a stroke showed changes in cognition and daily functioning up to a decade before the life-threatening emergency.

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Furthermore, the researchers also suggest that women, who carry so-called APOE gene that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and those with fewer academic qualifications seem to be at the greatest risk.

These findings indicate that there might be tell-tale signs for those at a high risk of stroke many years beforehand.

“Our findings demonstrated that future stroke patients start to deviate from stroke-free controls up to 10 years before the acute event, suggesting that individuals with cognitive and functional decline are at a higher risk of stroke and are possible candidates for prevention trials,” the researchers penned.

However, this is merely an observational study that can’t establish a cause, prompting for more research looking at this link.

How to reduce your risk of stroke

From simple lifestyle tweaks to keeping conditions like high blood pressure in check, there’s plenty you can do to see your risk of a stroke fall.

The NHS shares that the most potent recipe includes a mix of a healthy diet, exercise, quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol.

Apart from getting enough colourful healthy foods, you also need to limit the amount of salt you eat.

The health service advises eating no more than six grams of salt a day. Too much of the common seasoning can set off your blood pressure, consequently putting you at a higher risk of a stroke.

When it comes to exercise, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity – think cycling or fast walking.

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