Memory lapses can predict stroke, says study

Researchers from the Netherlands have found that people who complain of brief lapses in memory are more at risk of having a stroke. If they’re also educated to degree level, their risk is even higher. (So university brings debt and disease? Fantastic.)

As Psych Central reports, neurologists from Erasmus University Rotterdam led by associate professor Arfan Ikram asked 9152 participants to complete both an informal questionnaire about their memory and a medical survey called the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). By 2012, 1134 of the participants had sadly experienced a stroke, the majority of them ischemic (caused by a clot in a blood vessel sending blood to the brain).

The study showed that the MMSE wasn’t a good predictor of who’d be affected, but the memory complaints questionnaire was. This means that while patients might not have clinically significant brain changes, they do seem to notice neurological issues that could be a sign of a serious condition. In addition, having a high level of education (which the researchers defined as going to university) made participants 39% more likely to have a stroke.

In the UK, someone has a stroke every three and a half minutes, and while we tend to associate them with older people, they can affect anyone. The Rotterdam team hopes that if their findings can be confirmed by further research, they could provide a way to identify people who are most at risk.

However, Ikram admits that the study, which was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, was primarily focused on white Europeans, and that they’ll need to expand their research to a more diverse group of people in future.

Image via Conor’s Flickr.

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