Study makes it clear that a stroke ages brain by 8 years: According to a new study conducted by the University of Michigan (U-M) Medical School and School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, researchers identify the symptoms of stroke that it can decrease thinking capacity and memory by aging the brain as much as 8 years.
Memory skills and thinking speed was slowed down when measured on cognitive tests. Both African-Americans and Caucasians registered a dropped score on a 27-item test which measured thinking speed and memory. This drop was as if the patients’ brains had aged to almost 7.9 years Deborah Levine, M.D, MPH, assistant professor at U-M Medical School and lead author of the paper, said in a press release, “As we search for the key drivers of the known disparities in cognitive decline between blacks and whites, we focus on the role of ‘health shocks’ such as stroke.”
She added, “Although we found that stroke does not explain the difference, these results show the amount of cognitive aging that stroke brings on, and therefore the importance of stroke prevention to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.”
One thing the study made clear was that having a stroke aged the brain by 8 years and hence has serious consequences for brain function. It was noted that people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds would benefit from reducing the chances of strokes. Some steps that could be taken to avoid stroke include:
- Quitting or reducing smoking.
- Controlling the amount of cholesterol in the body.
- Exercising and being active in old age as well.
- Controlling blood sugar level, if diabetic.
- Keeping blood pressure under control.
The research was published online before being printed in the Journal Stroke. It was also presented partly at the International Stroke Conference of the American Heart Association, held in San Diego, California.
Similar research in differences in cognitive decline has focused on several factors that can contribute to risk of stroke. These factors include racial differences in education, socio-economic status as well as vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.
Although these symptoms of stroke may be able to explain some but not all of the racial differences in cognitive decline. Certain factors were noted by Levine and her colleagues, which could have a role in racial differences in long-term cognitive performance. These factors included genetic and biological factors as well as the quality of the participants education and the number of years a person has had vascular risk factors.
Authors of the paper: in addition to Levine, the study’s authors include Mohammed Kabeto, M.S., Kenneth Langa, M.D., Ph.D., and Mary A.M. Rogers, Ph.D., who like Levine are in the Medical School’s Division of General Medicine; and Lynda Lisabeth, Ph.D., and Andrzej Galecki, M.D., Ph.D. of the U-M School of Public Health.
Langa holds a joint position at the U-M Institute for Social Research, which runs the Health and Retirement Survey, the large national longitudinal study from which the data were drawn. Levine and Langa are members of the VA CCMR, based at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Levine and Lisabeth also hold positions in the Medical School, Department of Neurology.