Scientists in the US have announced that a person’s risk of stroke could be used to predict their likelihood of developing memory problems. The study, published in the journal Neurology, provides further evidence that treating risk factors of stroke, such as high blood pressure, could have added benefits in maintaining cognition.
The researchers at Indiana University followed 23,752 people with an average age of 64 and no history of stroke or memory problems. Over the four year study, participants were tested for cognitive problems and their risk of stroke was assessed using a measure called the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile. The profile gives an estimate of ten year stroke risk, taking into account a number of risk factors such as high blood pressure, age, diabetes and heart disease.
The study showed that higher scores on the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile were associated with poorer performance on a cognitive test. The scientists suggest that increased blood pressure and thickening of the heart muscle, two of the risk factors measured on the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile, could be used to predict an increased risk of memory problems.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“These findings show that stroke risk factors could be used to predict an increased risk of memory problems. We already know that stroke risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure are associated with an increased risk of developing vascular dementia. It will be interesting to see whether this stroke risk scale can also predict the likelihood that someone will go on to develop dementia.
“With 820,000 people in the UK affected by dementia and this number expected to rise substantially, there is a huge need to understand the risk factors of cognitive decline and dementia. Many stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure can be treated successfully and may provide an effective method of preserving memory in people who fall within this higher risk group.”