A recent study published in “Stroke” by a group of Dutch researchers shows a possible link between memory loss problems among highly educated people and increased risk of stroke later in life. The study participants who had a university education and recurrent memory issues had 39 percent more chance of having a stroke.
During the study, about 9,000 people living in Rotterdam, Netherlands, were monitored over the last two decades. Researchers organized the participants into three different group – low education, medium education and high education group. All people were healthyindividuals aged 55 and more. By 2012, about 1,000 participants had a stroke.
Researchers noticed that the highest risk group was the one with a higher level of education – with a 39 percent higher chance of stroke. This risk is comparable with the risk of developing Alzheimer in highly educated individuals. Still, the study couldn’t establish that the stroke risk was strictly related to memory issues in highly educated group.
“Studies have shown how stroke causes memory complaints. Given the shared underlying vascular pathology, we posed the reverse question: ‘Do memory complaints indicate an increased risk of strokes?’,”
Dr. Arfan Ikram, study researcher and associate professor at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, said.
Dr Ikram also said that university education indicated that the brain had more resources to fight against cognitive damage including dementia using its cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve gets built during childhood and teen years as a back-up plan against brain damage. However, researchers say that if highly educated people start complaining about memory loss or other memory related issue the cognitive reserve is compromised and it can no longer protect them against degenerative brain diseases.
When older people complain about memory problems this means they have reached an advanced stage and the memory reserve is not compensating anymore, study shows. In this situation, Prof Ikram suggests that doctors should use memory problems as a warning sign of possible stroke risks that tells them to keep a close watch on those patients.
A stroke is mainly the result of a malfunctioning blood vessel that gets blocked by a clot and hinders the blood flow from carrying vital oxygen and nutrients to the brain and eventually bursts. The American Stroke Association (ASA) warns that there are also some additional factors related to increased risk of stroke. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and bad cholesterol are among these factors.
ASA recommends a healthy lifestyle such as a balanced diet and physical exercise to prevent stroke occurring later in life. Dr Ikram also suggests people should maintain their brain health starting in early stages of their life, since this may be as important as physical health in preventing later stroke incidents.