20% of Stroke Survivors Face an Increased Risk Of Developing Dementia

Within five years of their stroke, one in every three stroke survivors may face the alarming prospect of developing dementia. In the first year after a stroke, over 60% of patients experience cognitive impairment, which is frequently neglected.

Even those who recover from minor cognitive damage within a year may not entirely recover their pre-stroke cognitive abilities. Early detection and continuing monitoring are critical, as cognitive impairment tends to worsen with time.

Let’s look at 4 reasons why strokes and cognitive decline are linked.

4 Reasons How Strokes And Cognitive Decline Are Linked And Increased Risk Of Developing Dementia:

1. Vascular Damage:

According to research when someone has a stroke, it means that the blood flow to their brain gets interrupted. This can cause harm to brain cells, which might lead to problems with thinking and memory later on.

The damage caused by a stroke can vary in severity. There are two main types of strokes: ischemic (caused by blocked blood vessels) and hemorrhagic (due to bleeding within the brain).

How much a person’s thinking abilities are affected depends on where and how much brain tissue is damaged. Common issues include trouble remembering things, paying attention, and using language.

2. Post-Stroke Cognitive Impairment (PSCI):

Studies indicate after a stroke, many people struggle with memory, paying attention, and other brain functions. We call this post-stroke cognitive impairment (PSCI).

Unfortunately, most people don’t fully recover their pre-stroke brain abilities. PSCI can significantly impact their daily life.

PSCI happens because of direct damage from the stroke itself and other effects like inflammation and changes in brain chemicals.

PSCI Can Show Up As:

  • Memory Problems: Difficulty remembering recent events or making new memories.
  • Executive Dysfunction: Trouble planning, making decisions, and solving problems.
  • Attention Issues: Finding it harder to focus and stay attentive.
  • Language and Communication Challenges: Trouble expressing thoughts or understanding language.
  • Visuospatial Difficulties: Problems with understanding where things are in space.
  • Under-Diagnosis and Under-Recognition: Sometimes, doctors miss noticing cognitive problems in stroke survivors during regular check-ups.

It’s essential to have regular visits to catch any signs of decline early. If cognitive issues are found, things like cognitive therapy and managing stroke risk factors can help.

3. Late-Onset Cognitive Decline:

According to research, some stroke survivors experience cognitive decline months after the stroke. Factors like existing cognitive problems, age, high blood pressure, and diabetes contribute to this decline.

Keeping an eye on cognitive health over time helps address any late-onset changes effectively. Strategies include staying active, taking medications, staying socially engaged, and doing exercises to boost brain function.

4. Disparities in Risk:

Not everyone faces the same risk of developing dementia after a stroke. Black individuals who have strokes are more likely to experience cognitive decline and have a higher risk of dementia. The severity of impairment varies based on the stroke’s severity, the person’s stroke history, and their overall health.

Take Away:

In conclusion, the link between strokes and cognitive decline is a significant concern, with up to one-third of stroke survivors facing an increased risk of developing dementia within five years. Vascular damage resulting from strokes can lead to long-term cognitive impairment, affecting memory, attention, language, and other brain functions. Post-stroke cognitive impairment (PSCI) is a common consequence, often persisting even after physical recovery.

Late-onset cognitive decline can further exacerbate cognitive issues months after a stroke, especially in individuals with pre-existing cognitive problems, older age, and comorbidities like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Additionally, there are disparities in risk, with Black individuals facing a higher likelihood of cognitive decline and dementia post-stroke. Early detection, regular monitoring, and targeted interventions are crucial in managing cognitive health in stroke survivors and mitigating the risk of dementia.