Some Cognitive Deficits May Signal Future Stroke Risk: Study of 1,011 Men and 1,164 Women Points to Importance of Intervention

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- Up to 10 years before they have a stroke, certain individuals show deficits in specific areas of cognitive performance that could suggest an elevated stroke risk, Merrill F. Elias, Ph.D.,reported at an American Medical Association briefing on Alzheimer's disease.

"People testing at a higher risk for stroke in the next 10 years performed more poorly on cognitive tests than those who were at a lower risk--even though they had not experienced a stroke or been diagnosed with dementia." said Dr. Elias, of the departments of epidemiology and medicine at Boston University and a professor of psychology at the University of Maine in Orono. He noted that the pattern of cognitive deficit in people at higher risk for stroke is similar to the pattern seen in people with vascular dementia, but the deficits are milder.

The investigators analyzed data from a community-based sample of 1,011 men and 1,164 women who participated in cognitive testing as part of the Framingham Offspring Study, a second-generation continuation of the Framingham Heart Study. The investigators used the Framingham Stroke Risk Profile (FSRP) to determine the subjects' 10-year risk of stroke. This profile computes stroke probability using weighted combinations of age, systolic blood pressure, presence of diabetes, cigarette smoking, history of cardiovascular disease, treatment for hypertension, and atrial fibrillation.

Along with the FSRP, cognitive-ability profiling was used to measure each subject's visual-spatial memory, concentration, attention, scanning, executive functioning, verbal abstract reasoning, and various components of verbal learning and memory.

The investigators correlated the FSRP and the cognitive ability data to reach their conclusions. …