Birmingham is unfortunately smack dab in the middle of the United States stroke belt. Higher rates of obesity are one cause of the high blood pressure and other health problems that can lead to a stroke.
The problem is no one knows if a high risk of stroke will lead to memory impairment in later years or not.
New research published in the November 8, 2011, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has found a high level of correlation between stroke risk and the development of some form of mental impairment or memory dysfunction.
The research used the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile from a study of the lifestyle and health of 23,752 people with an average age of 64 who had no stroke or cognitive function loss history at the beginning of the study.
“The study found the higher a person’s score on the Stroke Risk Profile, the greater the chance of developing cognitive problems four years later. Fifteen percent of people who scored among the highest 25 percent on the Stroke Risk Profile test (greater than 11.99 points) had cognitive problems compared to three percent of those who scored among the bottom 25 percent with a score below 3.4 points.”
Older age and the presence of thickening in the heart muscle caused by long term high blood pressure were the two factors most commonly associated with a future of cognitive impairment. High systolic blood pressure that results from heart muscle thickening was also highly correlated with the chance for cognitive problems.
The point of this exercise is to give physicians an easy to use tool to predict future cognitive impairment and attempt to correct a patient’s lifestyle or behavior that will produce future cognitive difficulties.
Frederick Unverzagt, Ph.D., of Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis led the research work.
The research was reported at the Eureka Alert web site on November 8, 2011.