Know someone with cognitive impairment? Beware of stroke

A Preventive Care post on 9/18/2014.   Topics: 

If you know someone who’s living with cognitive impairment, you’re aware that the condition can pose new challenges in everyday life. However, recent research suggests that people with cognitive impairment may also have a risk of stroke 39 percent higher than that of people who have normal cognitive function.

Ultimately, this study reminds us that, while it’s important to help people who have cognitive impairment with everyday tasks, we cannot forget potential long-term health problems.

Unhealthy blood vessels may underlie both issues
Previously, health experts were aware that people who survive a stroke may develop cognitive problems, but it wasn’t known if the relationship worked the other way around as well. Past studies were inconsistent, leading an international team of scientists to take a fresh look at the issue.

To do so, the study authors reviewed 18 previously published research papers that covered the topic. In total, the review encompassed nearly 122,000 people who were diagnosed with cognitive impairment. Most of these individuals were from Europe or North America. Eventually, nearly 7,800 of these study participants experienced a stroke.

Based on the data, the researchers estimated that people with cognitive impairment were 39 percent more likely to have a stroke than neurologically healthy individuals. The scientists explained the relationship by pointing out that both cognitive impairment and stroke can be results of blood vessels in the brain that are impacted by blockages, inflammation or other problems. They also asserted that symptoms of cognitive impairment may serve as an early warning sign that vascular problems in the brain may lead to a stroke.

Start with the heart
If you’re taking care of someone with cognitive impairment, it’s understandable that most of your attention would be on helping him or her remember things. Does he or she need help keeping track of medical appointments? Is the medication schedule easy to follow? Is there anyone around to remind him or her to keep the stove off and lock the doors?

Still, it’s important to help these individuals maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle, which may help prevent a stroke as well as further degradation of the brain. This means eating healthy food, exercising, giving up cigarettes and controlling one’s weight – all of which contribute to healthy blood vessels. For further advice on how to prevent a stroke in someone with cognitive impairment, consult a health advisor, who can refer you to experts in neurology and cardiovascular health.

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