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Stroke could hasten cognitive decline over long term

Every year, about 795,000 people have a stroke in the United States. However, the authors of a new study say that several million adults survived a stroke in 2010. Patients in Louisiana might be surprised that the researchers also concluded that a decline in cognitive function occurs for six years after a stroke.

Previous studies have connected declines in memory and thinking speed with strokes during the weeks immediately after the event. It was not until researchers tracked the cognitive changes in 515 stroke survivors that they determined the decline lasts much longer. They compared the results, which were recorded over 6.1 years on average, with those from 23,057 other people who were unaffected by stroke. All of the participants were at least 45 years old and did not have cognitive impairment when the study started.

The researchers discovered that the stroke survivors experienced much quicker rates of cognitive decline than before. Accelerated and continuous declines in executive function were also observed, as were declines in verbal memory and new learning.

Cognitive decline has a societal impact because of its contribution to disability, which is a significant driver of health costs for patients, the health care system and public health programs. The researchers think that their findings may improve health care policies, research and clinical practice. They suggest that doctors monitor stroke survivors over a course of years rather than just before discharge from the hospital and during follow-up checks in the weeks after.

While cognitive decline could result from stroke, it may also be a consequence of brain injury from a car accident or other incident. In either case, it is important that patients are constantly monitored to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and other related problems. Patients who have seen their conditions worsened as a result of a failure to receive proper care may want to speak with an attorney to determine if there are any methods available to pursue the receipt of compensation.

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