Stroke Signs Warn of Brain Trouble Ahead

Stroke symptoms without having a stroke may be associated with thinking and memory problems

(RxWiki News) Even without having a stroke, people can have slight or fleeting stroke symptoms. Although some can seem harmless, these signs can be linked to thinking and memory problems to come.

Often, symptoms of stroke are obvious — a numbness on one side of the face, slurred speech, trouble seeing or difficulty walking. Some symptoms of stroke may be ignored, missed or quickly pass.

Scientists have recently developed a seven question test that can help patients identify if they’ve had stroke symptoms and if they are at increased risk of developing dementia.

"Don’t ignore ANY stroke-like symptoms."

Brendan Kelley, MD, of the University of Cincinnati in Indiana and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, led an investigation of 23,830 people from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study.

At the start of the investigation, patients were an average age of 64 with no memory problems and had never had a stroke.

Participants completed a stroke symptoms questionnaire every six months for at least two years.

The questionnaire asked participants if a physician had ever told them that they had had a mini-stroke, which is technically called a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

It also asked if they had ever experienced stroke symptoms, including sudden painless weakness on one side of the body, sudden numbness on one side of the body, a loss of vision in one or both eyes, a loss of ability to understand people or a loss of ability to express themselves.

From participant responses, Dr. Kelley and his team identified 7,223 individuals who had stroke symptoms. They also detected incidents of cognitive impairment by evaluating participants with a six-item screener.

The authors found that people who had stroke symptoms were more likely to develop memory and thinking problems.

Caucasians who had stroke symptoms were twice as likely to develop cognitive problems compared to Caucasians who did not have stroke symptoms. About 11 percent in the stroke symptom group had thinking and memory issues as opposed to 5 percent in the non-stroke group.

About 16 percent of African Americans who had stroke symptoms developed thinking problems, while 10 percent of African Americans who did not have stroke symptoms developed them.

"Our study highlights the importance of discussing stroke-like symptoms with your family doctor, even if they don't last long,” said Dr. Kelley in a press release. "These symptoms can be a warning sign that a person is at increased risk of stroke or problems with thinking or memory. With this study, we found that a quick, seven-question test can be a cost-effective tool to help identify people at increased risk of developing dementia."

The study was published online in the June 19 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Review Date: 
June 17, 2013