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Heart trouble linked with stroke

25th April 2006

There is an area of the brain which, when affected by a stroke, can also cause damage to the heart muscle, according to new research.

Researchers from the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) analysed data from 50 patients with ischemic strokes (caused by arterial blockage) who also had myocardial damage.

The study found that stroke patients with damage to the right insula - an area deep within the brain - were much more likely to have biochemical evidence of myocardial damage in the days after their stroke.

Dr Gregory Sorensen, senior author of the paper, explained the results.

He said: "The link between the brain and the heart in stroke patients is fascinating. For instance, most patients with acute stroke have elevated blood pressure that returns to baseline over three to seven days.

"The connection is believed to be through the autonomic nervous system, but what the mechanism is has been unclear."

Around five per cent of stroke patients will also suffer a heart attack through damage to their heart muscle soon after their initial stroke.