According to a recent study, people with cognitive impairment are significantly more likely to have a stroke, with a 39% increased risk, than people with normal cognitive function. Given the projected substantial rise in the number of older people around the world, prevalence rates of cognitive impairment and stroke are expected to soar over the next several decades, especially in countries with high incomes. Both cognitive impairment and stroke are major contributors to disability, with stroke being the second leading cause of death world-wide. Even though stroke is linked to the development and worsening of cognitive impairment, it’s not known whether the reverse is true. Previous studies that have looked at the link between cognitive impairment and subsequent stroke have been inconsistent in their findings.
The study, done by American, Taiwanese and South Korean researchers, analyzed data from 18 studies of 121,879 people with cognitive impairment, 7,799 of whom later had strokes. Most of the studies were conducted in North America or Europe. Researchers observed a noticeably higher rate of stroke in people with cognitive impairment than in people with normal cognitive function. The risk of future stroke was 39% higher among patients with cognitive impairment at baseline than among those with normal cognitive function at baseline, while the risk is increased to 64% when a broadly adopted definition of cognitive impairment was used. Blocking blood vessels in the brain, atherosclerosis, inflammation and other vascular conditions are associated with a higher risk of stroke and cognitive impairment, and could be significant factors in contributing to increased risk. The authors believe that cognitive impairment whould be more broadly recognized as a possible early clinical manifestation of cerebral infraction, so that timely management of vascular risk factors can be instituted to potentially prevent future stroke events and avoid further deterioration of cognitive health.