AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Low Scores on Thinking Skills Test May Indicate Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

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According to results from a study recently published in the journal Neurology, people with low scores on executive-function testing may be at higher risk of heart attack or stroke. The study involved 3,926 people with an average age of 75 and without a history of heart attack or stroke. All of the people involved had either a history of heart disease, or an increased risk of heart disease from high blood pressure, diabetes or smoking (participants were also free of dementia). Four tests were used to evaluate the participants’ high-level thinking skills at the beginning of the study. The participants were then placed in groups of low, medium and high based on the results. The participants were then followed for an average of three years to see who developed heart attacks or strokes. During that time, there were 375 heart attacks and 155 strokes, which showed a rate of 31 heart attacks per 1,000 person-years and 12 strokes per 1,000 person-years. Results of the study also showed that people in the lowest group of executive function thinking skills were 85-percent more likely to have a heart attack than those in the highest group. For strokes, people with low scores had a 51-percent higher risk of stroke. There were 69 strokes among those with those with low scores, compared with 48 strokes among those with high scores. “Performance on tests of thinking and memory are a measure of brain health. Lower scores on thinking tests indicate worse brain functioning. Worse brain functioning, in particular, in executive function, could reflect disease of the brain vascular supply, which in turn would predict, as it did, a higher likelihood of stroke,” said the study’s lead author. To read more about this study, click here.

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