Undetected strokes increase risk

Everyday, 1,000 people in Canada turn 65, entering a stage of life that has increasing risk of stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

"Recent national and international imaging studies on the brains of people aged 65 and older show that 95 per cent have brain small vessel disease seen as white spots and patches on ," says Dr. Sandra Black, director of the Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute at the University of Toronto.

These studies also show that a quarter of healthy senior volunteers, average age 70, living in the community, have evidence of small . Even in younger people (average age 60), this number may be as high as 14 per cent, according to preliminary results of the Canadian PURE MIND study, presented at the Canadian Stroke Congress in Ottawa, where Dr. Black addressed more than 900 researchers and .

"Microbleeds, another type of small vessel disease, are associated with high blood pressure and with Alzheimer's disease," she says. Unlike major stroke events, these types of small vessel disease gradually build up and increase the risk of clinical stroke events, depression, falls and Alzheimer's .

"Alzheimer's and small vessel disease often live together in the brains of the elderly in a way that is very disabling," says Dr. Black. "People become depressed, off balance when walking, have trouble thinking and often cannot live on their own. Unfortunately, so far there is no cure for either disease but there are actions we can all take to delay onset or progression."

The time is now for the brain to be the top priority for Canada's community, says Dr. Black. In the next 20 years the number of people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease is expected to reach more than one million in Canada alone, increasing ten-fold the current of$15 billion/year, she says.

"Stroke is adding to the increasing incidence of dementia: 65 per cent of experience difficulty with thinking, memory, goal setting and motivation after a stroke and 20 to 30 per cent become clinically demented within three months post-stroke," says Dr. Black.

Research for a cure is being actively pursued but, in the meantime, there are important counter measures people can take to delay and prevent these devastating diseases. This is because stroke and Alzheimer's share the same vascular risk factors, such as , obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking and a lifestyle of physical inactivity.

"It turns out protecting the blood vessels in your heart and body also helps to protect your brain and its blood vessels. This can delay the onset of dementia," says Dr. Black."For example, regular aerobic exercise throughout the lifespan can help delay the onset of late life dementia, even more so in people who may be genetically prone to dementia."

"Researchers from all fields are going to need to work together," says Dr. Antoine Hakim, CEO and Scientific Director of the Canadian Stroke Network

"Lifestyle choices will have the biggest impact in protecting the hearts and brains of our aging population," says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Michael Hill.

Provided by Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vascular changes linked to dementia

Jul 21, 2011

The same artery-clogging process (atherosclerosis) that causes heart disease can also result in age-related vascular cognitive impairments (VCI), according to a new American Heart Association/American Stroke Association scientific ...

Under 50? Silent duo could put you at risk for a big stroke

Jun 08, 2010

Being young doesn't mean you are immune to a stroke. You may feel healthy; you may be 18 or a vigorous 50. And yet you could be more vulnerable than you know. That could be because of the role played by silent risk factors ...

Common irregular heartbeat raises risk of dementia

Aug 08, 2011

The most common kind of chronically irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, is associated with a greater risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. This discovery by scientists at Group Health Research Institute ...

Smoking causes stroke to occur

Oct 03, 2011

Not only are smokers twice as likely to have strokes, they are almost a decade younger than non-smokers when they have them, according to a study presented today at the Canadian Stroke Congress.

Recommended for you

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

11 hours ago

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

15 hours ago

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

Bacteria in caramel apples kills at least four in US

Dec 19, 2014

A listeria outbreak believed to originate from commercially packaged caramel apples has killed at least four people in the United States and sickened 28 people since November, officials said Friday.

Steroid-based treatment may answer needs of pediatric EoE patients

Dec 19, 2014

A new formulation of oral budesonide suspension, a steroid-based treatment, is safe and effective in treating pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.