A new study has shown that a stroke causes the brain function to age by around 8 years. The researchers were led to this conclusion after they evaluated the cognitive test results of the participants which represented a decline in memory capacity and thinking speed. The results are to be published in the July issue of Stroke.
Photo credits: University of Michigan.
The 4,900 participants were patients having experienced a stroke in the past; the group included black and white seniors older than 65 years of age. They were made to take a 27-item test of memory and thinking speed. The test scores were measured over time from 1998 to 2012. It was found that both blacks and whites performed worse after their stroke than before it: their score had decreased as much as it would have had they been 7.9 years older.
The extent of the effect was seen to be the same for both blacks and white. But, other studies showed that cognitive problems are more intense in older blacks than non-Hispanic whites. The new results are therefore interpreted as meaning that stroke is not responsible for the differences in memory and cognition among different races as the people age.
“As we search for the key drivers of the known disparities in cognitive decline between blacks and whites, we focus here on the role of ‘health shocks’ such as stroke,” says lead author and U-M Medical School assistant professor Deborah Levine, M.D., MPH.
“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.”
The researchers also added that other factors might account for the racial differences in long-term cognitive performance, namely the number of years a person has vascular risk factors, or the quality of education he received, or genetic factors.
What is clear though is that strokes come with bitter consequences on the brain: they steal from it 8 years of cognitive function, further highlighting the importance of preventive measures to protect one from having a stroke.