In the past month, I’ve noticed that Dad periodically struggles to complete sentences. He’ll start to voice a comment and then trail off, apparently having difficulty maintaining this train of thought. That’s not like Dad, who has always been sharp. So I’ve asked him to add this concern to the list of health issues he’ll address with his geriatrician during his appointment later today.
Needless to say, part of the reason Dad’s memory difficulty caught my attention is because of Mom’s Alzheimer’s disease, but Dad’s issues don’t seem the same as what she experienced. However, a new study from Harvard University’s School of Public Health makes me wonder whether Dad’s issues may be a warning sign of a potential stroke.
Elders and stroke: prevention possible?
This study, led by graduate student Qianyi Wang and presented at the American Stroke Association’s 2012 International Stroke Conference, found that elders who died from a stroke often suffered severe and rapid memory loss prior to the fatal stroke. The study’s researchers analyzed data from 11,814 people who were at least 50 years old and who hadn’t had a stroke when the study started. The researchers followed these participants for a decade and reevaluated them for signs of declining memory every two years.
The research team compared the participant’s average memory loss each year to his/her stroke status. The different statuses were: the participant was stroke-free; the participants survived a stroke; and the participant had a stroke but did not survive. The researchers found that memory declined the most for study participants in the years prior to a fatal stroke. Furthermore, participants who survived a stroke had more memory impairment than participants who never had a stroke.
Avoid stroke with these tips
So how can you help a loved one reduce the risk of a stroke? The National Stroke Association, which reports that 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented, encourages elders (and others) to talk to their health-care providers and to follow these guidelines:
- Know your blood pressure rate
- Work with the doctor to identify and treat any atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heartbeat), which otherwise can increase stroke risk by 500 percent
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol use to no more than two drinks daily
- Keep your cholesterol level below 200
- Control diabetes
- Exercise five times a week
- Have a healthy diet that reduces calories, salt, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol. Also, eat five daily servings of fruits and vegetables
- Treat circulation issues
- Recognize and treat transient ischemic attacks (TIA)
Tags: Caregiving, Health