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Memory loss may warn of imminent stroke

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Rapid and severe memory loss can be a warning sign of an imminent deadly stroke, US researchers have found.

The team, led by Dr Qianyi Wang from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, presented the findings at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in New Orleans.

The researchers identified a link between killer strokes and pronounced memory decline in the years preceding them.

Dr Wang said the reason for the link was not yet known but may reflect underlying disease prior to a fatal stroke.

Checks for signs of fading memory were carried out every two years on almost 12,000 people aged 50 and older. A total of 1,820 strokes were reported among participants, leading to 364 deaths, over a 10-year period.

Using a point scoring system based on a standard word-recall list, Dr Wang’s team found dead victims had experienced more severe memory loss than individuals who survived a stroke or did not have one.

Average memory score each year dropped 0.078 points for those who remained stroke-free during the study, 0.137 points for those who later survived a stroke, and 0.205 points for those who later died from a stroke.

Dr Wang said: “We’re most surprised that people who died after strokes had such sharp memory declines years before stroke onset.”

 

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