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Having a Stroke Ages Brain by 8 Years

Research has found that having a stroke can age the brain by as much as 8 years. The study, performed by the University of Michigan, found that suffering a stroke has the effect of impairing both long-term memory and overall cognitive capacity. This means patients are likely to think considerably slower than those of the same age who have not suffered a stroke.

The research focussed on US national data of nearly 5,000 people – both black and white – aged 65 and older. Participants in the study underwent memory and thinking-speed tests between the period 1998 and 2012. It found that the results of those who had suffered a stroke were notably lower than those who had not.

Patients suffering a stroke had the equivalent results and age of those eight years older. This means that a 65-year-old patient who suffered a stroke had the same mental power of that found in a 73-year-old, according to the journal Stroke. A stroke has the effect, therefore, of aging the brain to a considerable extent, depriving it of abilities it had hitherto enjoyed.

Given the nature of what occurs during a stroke, this may not come as a surprise for many. A stroke can occur by two principal means; by a sudden hemorrhage within the brain or a blockage of a major vessel supplying the brain with blood. In both cases, the brain is deprived of the essential nourishment it requires to function effectively.

The research also shed light on the effect of a stroke on black and white populations. Previous research revealed that older black individuals were more likely to suffer from cognitive problems compared to white people. However, today’s research shows that the rate of thinking difficulties following a stroke is equal in both blacks and whites.

The study also highlights the importance of early medical intervention in stroke treatment. Every second of a stroke results in greater damage to that part of the brain it has affected. By swiftly identifying a stroke has occurred, the patient is likely to suffer less damage with a commensurate reduction in age-related mental decline.

Stroke prevention, similarly, has an important role to play. By cutting out smoking, reducing blood pressure, controlling obesity and engaging in exercise, people are considerably less likely to suffer a stroke. This research reinforces the need not only to focus on stroke identification, but also the importance of stroke prevention at the very outset.

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