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Narrow neck artery may be risk factor for memory problems

A neck artery that starts to narrow may be an early warning of memory and thinking decline, US research suggests.

The carotid arteries in the neck supply blood to the brain. A build-up of material on their walls can restrict blood flow to the brain or release harmful pieces of debris.

“These results underscore the importance of assessing the status of memory and thinking in people with carotid artery narrowing”

Brajesh Lal

Researchers studied 67 people with a condition called asymptomatic carotid stenosis, which results in a 50% reduction in carotid artery diameter.

They were compared with 60 individuals with risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease but no asymptomatic carotid stenosis.

Members of the ACS group performed significantly worse in tests of thinking and reaction speed, learning and memory. Language scores did not differ between the two groups.

Brajesh Lal

Brajesh Lal

Study leader Dr Brajesh Lal, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, said: “To date, the focus of diagnosis and management of carotid artery blockages has been prevention of stroke since that was the only harm that these blockages were thought to cause to patients.

“These results underscore the importance of assessing the status of memory and thinking in people with carotid artery narrowing.”

Dr Lal’s results will be presented later this month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia.

  • 003: “Asymptomatic carotid stenosis is associated with cognitive dysfunction” Moira Dux, Baltimore, MD

Readers' comments (1)

  • a question is somebody with this problem aware if so apart from memory loss that people in their 80's put down to age

    is there discomfort in this condition, will be interested in your answer
    as someone who may have some symptoms

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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