People with a high level of education who complain about memory lapses have a higher risk for stroke, according to new research.
“Studies have shown how stroke causes memory complaints,” said Arfan Ikram, M.D., associate professor of neuroepidemiology at Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Netherlands. “Given the shared underlying vascular pathology, we posed the reverse question: ‘Do memory complaints indicate an increased risk of strokes?'”
As part of the Rotterdam Study, 9,152 participants 55 or older completed a subjective memory complaints questionnaire and took the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).
By 2012, 1,134 strokes occurred: 663 were ischemic, 99 hemorrhagic, and 372 unspecified, according to the study’s findings.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts or ruptures. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so it and brain cells die.
According to the American Stroke Association, about 795,000 Americans have a new or recurrent stroke each year.
In the latest study, the researchers found that memory complaints were independently associated with a higher risk of stroke, but a higher MMSE score wasn’t.
The researchers also found that those with memory complaints had a 39 percent higher risk of stroke if they also had a higher level of education. The finding is comparable to the association between subjective memory complaints and Alzheimer’s disease among highly educated people, according to the researchers.
“Given the role of education in revealing subjective memory complaints, we investigated the same association, but in three separate groups: Low education, medium education, and high education,” Ikram said. “We found that the association of memory complaints with stroke was strongest among people with the highest education.
“If in future research we can confirm this, then I would like to assess whether people who complain about changes in their memory should be considered primary targets for further risk assessment and prevention of stroke.”
For this study, the researchers defined low education as primary education only; intermediate education as primary education plus some higher education, lower vocational education, intermediate vocational education, or general secondary education; and high education as higher vocational education or university training.
“The study results apply evenly to men and women,” Ikram added. “More than 95 percent of the study participants were Caucasians living in Rotterdam, so future studies should include more racially diverse groups,” he added.
The study was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
Source: American Heart Association