Risk for lowered cognitive performance is greater in people at high risk for stroke

NEW YORK--People at high risk for stroke within 10 years show greater cognitive deficits in specific areas of cognitive performance and show a pattern of deficits not unlike that seen in cognitive impairment of vascular origin, according to Merrill F. Elias, Ph.D., M.P.H., research professor of epidemiology at Boston University and professor of psychology at the University of Maine. Dr. Elias' findings were published in the February 2004 issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"This work is important because people don't just suddenly develop vascular dementia or AD--it is very likely a long-term and subtle process," Dr. Elias stated. "What our study shows is that in people who have never had a stroke or been diagnosed with dementia, there is a higher risk for performing in the lower range of cognitive ability for those who are at higher risk of stroke within 10 years. Our research shows that it is very important to consider risk factors for a future stroke as risk factors for cognitive deficits." Dr. Elias spoke today at an American Medical Association media briefing on Alzheimer's disease in New York City.

"This study shows that people who are at higher risk for stroke are at risk for lowered cognitive function and show a pattern of deficits similar to that seen in mild vascular cognitive impairment," Dr. Elias said. We hypothesize that the link between risk for future stroke and lowered cognitive performance may be due to structural and functional changes in the brain that do not rise to the level of clinical detection. Very recent evidence from a brain imaging study with a large subset of Framingham Offspring who also participated in our study indicated that abnormal brain atrophy is related both to higher risk of stroke and poorer cognitive ability."

"Mild cognitive impairment related to high risk for stroke is of concern to those who study AD for several reasons. Vascular changes related to stroke are

Contact: Ann Marie Menting
American Medical Association

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