February is American Heart Month, and vascular health and dementia are related. In fact, after Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the second-most common form of dementia

Previous posts have addressed the relationship of hypertension and dementia risk. However, a recent study adds some additional critical information about the relationship of heart health and dementia risk. 

Recent Research on Stroke and Dementia

A 2018 University of Exeter (UK) study undertook a meta-analysis of data on stroke and dementia risk from a world-wide pool of 3.2 million people across 48 studies. 

Lifetime history of stroke was associated with a 70% increase in dementia risk, and recent stroke with a 50% risk increase. The association between stroke and dementia development was somewhat higher in men than women. Importantly, researchers controlled for blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in the analysis.

Volume of lesions, location, and presence of multiple lesions may also have predictive value. Also, a stroke may accelerate dementia by diminishing amyloid clearance, increasing auto-immune response, and damaging vascular tissues. 

Tracking Cognitive Health After a Stroke

Researchers in the study suggest that stroke prevention and post-stroke rehabilitation could both play a role in reducing the impact of stroke. These results amplify both the urgency and opportunity to address hypertension and stroke risk as modifiable risk factors in dementia. 

Tracking cognitive health along with vascular health following a stroke may also  be helpful. Validated, digital cognitive assessment tools — like BrainCheck — can allow physicians to see trends in cognitive function over time. 

With insight into improvements in or progression of cognitive impairment, BrainCheck can provide clinical decision support and personalized cognitive care planning tools for better patient outcomes.

See how BrainCheck can be useful in your practice >>

Reference: 

Kuźma E, et al. “Stroke and Dementia Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2018; DOI: 10.1016/j.jalz.2018.06.3061


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About the author

Robert Cuyler, PhD


Robert Cuyler is a clinical psychologist with decades of clinical, management and consulting experience. He is a Clinical Advisor at BrainCheck and the chief clinical officer of Palo Alto Health Sciences. He previously served as the CEO of JSA Health Telepsychiatry and clinical advisor to MDLive/Breakthrough Behavioral. Dr. Cuyler received his Ph.D. in psychology from Louisiana State University and his postdoctoral fellowship from the Menninger Foundation.

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