Stroke Ages the Brain Almost 8 Years

A recent analysis of over 4,900 seniors has identified that the cognitive effects of stroke are similar to that of 7.9 years of aging. The results, found by a team from the University of Michigan U-M Medical School and School of Public Health and the VA Center for Clinical Management Research, will be published in the July issue of Stroke by the American Heart Association.

Participants consisted of black and white adults at or above the age of 65. Researchers combined information from a large, national study of older Americans with Medicare data for these same individuals in this study. The longitudinal changes observed included detailed surveys and cognitive tests of memory and thinking speed taken from 1998 to 2012.

The researchers focused on the 7.5 percent of black participants and the 6.7 percent of white participants that had no recent history of stroke, dementia or other cognitive impairments at the beginning of the study but suffered a stroke within twelve years of their first survey and cognitive test in 1998. They found that both groups’ performance on cognitive tests declined significantly post-stroke and assessed the effect of stroke on cognitive decline to be equivalent to 7.9 years of cognitive aging.

The study also aimed to find why rates of cognitive decline in older black individuals are almost double that of non-Hispanic whites, as evidenced by past research. However, the effects of stroke on cognitive decline had no racial disparities, meaning that stroke does not account for the increased rate of cognitive decline in black individuals.

Dr. Deborah Levine, lead author of the study and assistant professor at U-M Medical School, highlighted the study’s importance: “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.”

It is important for anyone who is or is caring for an older adult to be aware of the warning signs of stroke and act as quickly as possible for the best outcome. The acronym BE FAST is an easy way to remember and recognize the symptoms of stroke.

senior woman having strokeB is for Balance.       A sudden loss of balance

E is for Eyes.             A sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes

F is for Face.              Drooping on one side of the face

A is for Arm.              An inability to raise one arm

S is for Speech.         Unintelligible or slurred speech

T is for Time.             Every second counts — call 911 as soon as you recognize the signs!