Preventing stroke could also prevent some dementias

By June Shannon Stroke News   |   11th Jul 2019

Stroke and dementia share the same treatable risk factors

Many cases of dementia could be prevented by preventing stroke, a leading international neurologist and world-renowned stroke expert has said.

Speaking at the European Association of Neurology (EAN) congress in Oslo recently, Professor Vladimir Hachinski, Professor of Neurology at Western Ontario University, Ontario in Canada, said that stroke accounted for 42 per cent of neurological disease, compared to 10 per cent for dementia and that many cases of dementia could be prevented by preventing stroke.

Professor Hachinski, said,” the good news is that stroke is 90 per cent potentially preventable through the control of risk factors. Stroke and dementia share the same treatable risk factors and their control is associated with a decrease in stroke and some dementias. Additionally, intensive control of risk factors and enhancement of protective factors improve cognition.”

“Anticoagulation treatment of atrial fibrillation patients decreases their chance of developing dementia by 48 per cent. Preliminary data suggests that treating blood pressure to a target of 120mmHg systolic, compared to a target of 140mmHg, decreases the chances of mild cognitive impairment by 19 per cent.”

Prof Hachinski said neurological disorders are now responsible for the largest number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs – a combined index of early mortality and years spent in disability).

He added that the introduction of a stroke strategy in Ontario, Canada, which included building stroke units, stroke prevention clinics and campaigns to control risk factors, helped decrease the number of strokes by 32 per cent over 12 years, with a 7 per cent reduction in the incidence of dementia.

He stressed that while advancing age, genetic factors and family history couldn’t be changed, many other risk factors for stroke could be modified with physical activity, medication for high blood pressure, following a Mediterranean diet, an active lifestyle and taking statins to lower cholesterol.

" Identifying and treating high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation will significantly reduce the risk of having a stroke or developing dementia,”

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director , Irish Heart Foundation

Professor Hachinski concluded, “Neurological disorders represent the leading cause of DALYs. More than half result from stroke and dementia, which are both preventable to different degrees. We need new vistas and approaches to grasp the opportunity of preventing stroke and some dementias, beginning now.”

Commenting Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of the Irish Heart Foundation said, “The recent European Academy of Neurology Congress in Oslo highlighted the importance of preventing stroke and dementia. In the Irish Heart Foundation we mirror this, and to this end, travel around the country with our mobile health unit giving free blood pressure and pulse checks. Identifying and treating high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation will significantly reduce the risk of having a stroke or developing dementia.”

The Irish Heart Foundation’s Mobile Health Unit (MHU) provides free heart health checks to the public which include, a blood pressure and pulse check, heart health information and lifestyle advice.

The Irish Heart Foundation recently announced a new partnership with Pfizer Bristol-Myers Squibb which will support the MHU for six months so it can continue to offer free heart health checks to local communities across Ireland.

Known as the silent killer, many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms and are therefore completely unaware that they are at risk. However, a blood pressure check is a simple, quick and non-invasive test which could prove lifesaving.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s heart health checks are free of charge and the charity encourages all adults aged 30 and over to have their blood pressure checked each year. For more information about the Mobile Health Unit and to view its upcoming locations, please visit, or call the Irish Heart Foundation at 01 6685001.


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