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Strokes age the brain by eight years in a single night

In one fell stroke, literally, your brain could age by eight years, according to the results of a new study carried out at the University of Michigan U-M Medical School and the School of Public Health and the VA Center for Clinical Management Research. The finding is based on the performance of a group of stroke patients on a 27-item memory test. The results of this test showed that the memory and speed of thought among these ‘stricken’ individuals had declined dramatically, as if they had aged 7.9 years overnight.

When supply of blood to a part of the brain is disrupted because of narrowing of arteries that carry blood to the brain, a clot or a rupture, it usually results in a stroke, which is a serious medical condition and could prove fatal in the absence of urgent and appropriate attention. The sooner a victim receives treatment the milder would be the after-effects of a stroke—that is the long-term damage caused by a stroke is directly related to the speed of adequate medical response. Many a time the treatment must begin inside the first few hours of the occurrence of symptoms.

The Michigan study was huge in size involving 4,900 black and white seniors. These 65 plus people had all suffered from stroke, an occurrence that had set their brains back by years. To arrive at their conclusion, the scientists co-related two large strands of information: the results of the performance tests conducted on a large number of individuals administered over a number of years and second, the medical care data of the same individuals.

From this huge mass of subjects the scientists selected a group of study participants who had not recently suffered from stroke or dementia, but whose records showed that they has been hit by a stroke inside of 12 years of their first survey and cognitive test in 1998. The results of the tests conducted on this group showed indubitably that the performance of the brain on counts like memory and speed of thinking declines dramatically after a stroke than it does before. The decline experienced in one night is as much as the brain’s performance would have declined in 8 years had it not been affected by stroke.

The findings of the Michigan researchers emphasise the importance of preventing a stroke. The lead author of the study Dr Deborah Levine says that the study had revealed the scale of cognitive aging that strokes cause. “It is, therefore, crucial,” she concludes for us to prevent stroke if we wish to prevent rapid decline in mental abilities.”

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