According to a recent scientific statement from the American Stroke Association, up to 60% of stroke survivors experience memory and thinking issues within a year. One-third develop dementia in five years.
"The numbers are staggering right?" Dr. Andrew Freeman is the director of cardiovascular health and wellness at National Jewish Health, Denver.
Freeman, a member of the committee that drafted the statement but not a part of it, said: "This is an action call for us to step up and concentrate on prevention."
According to statistics for 2023 from the American Heart Association, 9.4 million American adults - or 3.6% of US adult population - report having suffered a stroke.
In a recent statement, Dr. Nada Husseini said that cognitive impairment is a condition that stroke survivors often deal with. It's underreported, underdiagnosed, but very common.
Around 40% of stroke survivors have mild cognitive impairment, which does not meet diagnostic criteria for dementia. El Husseini who headed the committee that drafted the statement said, "Mild or not, mental difficulties can have a serious impact on quality of life."
El Husseini explained that cognitive impairments after stroke can range from mild impairments to dementia, and may affect a person in many ways, including their ability to remember, think, plan, speak, or drive, and even live independently.
The statement stated that cognitive impairment is more common in the first two weeks following a stroke. The statement said that mental decline can occur in conjunction with other stroke-related conditions such as personality and behavioral changes, depression, physical disability, and sleep disturbances.
The statement of the American Stroke Association did contain some good news. About 20% people who suffer mild cognitive impairment following a stroke recover their cognitive functions, usually within six months.
Stroke signs and symptoms
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, which can be described by sufferers as a quivering, fluttering or flip-flopping of the heart. Smokers, drug and alcohol users, people with high blood pressure or uncontrolled cholesterol are at risk. Diabetes or obesity can also be risk factors.
According to the statement, 87% of strokes are caused by an ischemic stroke, which is a blood clot that occurs in the vessels that supply blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic brain bleeds are caused by the rupture of a weak vessel within the brain. They account for only 13% of strokes.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are several signs of stroke:
Sudden severe headache without known cause
Other symptoms that are less common include nausea, dizziness, and memory loss.
The warning signs can last for a short time and then disappear. This could indicate that the person is experiencing a minor stroke, also known as a transient ischemic episode (TIA). Experts warn that any symptom shouldn't be ignored as it could signal a stroke of greater severity.
Freeman explained that a TIA is often called a lucky stroke', because it's not as serious. However, it is still a very important event.
Freeman said that it's never too early to prevent stroke, but that serious efforts are needed even after a mild stroke in order to 'extinguish a fire', if you like, by aggressive changes and aggressive medication therapy, when appropriate.
He said that it should encourage people to adopt a more active lifestyle, eat better, and take statins, aspirins, or other medications prescribed by their doctors, in order to reduce their risk as much as possible.
Rapid action is essential
The brain is damaged when certain brain cells die because they are deprived of oxygen, or if there is bleeding in the head. According to the Institute, brain damage may occur in minutes or hours. The institute said that while some brain cells died quickly, many others remained in a compromised state or were weakened for several hours.
The impact of stroke can be reduced by seeking immediate medical attention. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, learning the symptoms of strokes using the acronym FAST will help you identify them quickly.
The CDC recommends that you record the exact time of the first onset of any symptoms to assist medical professionals in determining the best treatment.
The scientific statement stated that additional strokes will only worsen cognitive decline. Prevention is therefore key. Atrial fibrillation and stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension should be treated.
The statement stated that keeping high blood pressure in check can reduce the risk of additional strokes and mild cognitive impairment.
El Husseini stated that stroke survivors should undergo a systematic evaluation for cognitive impairment to begin treatment as soon as signs are visible.
She said that the most pressing need is to develop effective, culturally-relevant treatments for post stroke cognitive impairment. We hope to see large-scale clinical trials that evaluate various techniques, medications, and lifestyle changes among diverse groups of patients in order to improve cognitive function.