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Memory lapses in well-educated 'could signify stroke risk'

Memory lapses in well-educated 'could signify stroke risk'
16th December 2014

People who have a university education but suffer from memory problems could be at greater risk of having a stroke.

Researchers at Erasmus University Rotterdam found such people had a 39 per cent greater risk of stroke compared with those with a lower level of education, BBC News reports.

They studied 9,000 people, who were all healthy and aged 55 and over, in Rotterdam over the course of 20 years. Participants were asked if they had any issues with their memory in a questionnaire.

Some 1,134 strokes had occurred among the study group by 2012. The scientists discovered there was a greater risk of them suffering a stroke if they had previously complained about memory lapses.

However, among people with a high level of education - defined as higher vocational education or university training - the risk of a stroke was even higher.

According to Arfan Ikram, associate professor of neuroepidemiology at Erasmus University, education was a good indicator of the brain's ability to fight against cognitive damage, such as dementia.

Known as cognitive reserve, the capacity is built up in childhood and early adulthood, and is thought to provide protection against damage to the brain.

"In people with a high level of education, it takes longer for the brain to be damaged and for dementia to occur," Professor Ikram said.

"But if these people start complaining about their memory, then the mechanism is gone.

"This can be an indicator they have reached an advanced stage, when the cognitive reserve is not compensating any more."

Memory problems among people who fit this profile could be a key warning sign of later problems and such individuals should be monitored closely, the professor added.

He also stressed the importance of taking preventive measures later in life, maintaining a healthy mind as well as a healthy body.

Keeping physically active and refraining from smoking are ways of reducing the risk of a stroke, while diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol all increase the risk.

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