Memory lapses may be an early sign of stroke. Latest research shows that memory problems when combined with a higher level of education can increase the risk of stroke by 39 percent.
The study followed 9,152 people, aged 55 or above for more than two decades. The participants shared their memory status in a questionnaire and underwent a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).
Participants were divided into different categories according to their education: low, medium and high.
Nearly 1,134 strokes were reported during the study period.
Arfan Ikram and colleagues from the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands, found that memory complaints had a direct link with stroke. People with higher vocational education or university training had greater risk of suffering from strokes than less educated people or those without any memory problems.
Researchers assumed that a loss of cognitive reserve played a huge role in this occurrence.
Cognitive reserve is the process of developing new skills by practice and the ability of mind to fight damages caused to the brain. Education is a good way of strengthening this ability and preventing cognitive decline.
The team said memory problems in educated people may be indicating that the mind mechanism has stopped working properly, BBC reported.
"In people with a high level of education, it takes longer for the brain to be damaged and for dementia to occur," Ikram, associate professor of neuroepidemiology at Erasmus University, told BBC. "But if these people start complaining about their memory, then the mechanism is gone. This can be an indicator they have reached an advanced stage, when the cognitive reserve is not compensating any more."
The study has been reported in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
During a stroke, blood supply to the brain gets interrupted, affecting the normal supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, thus damaging brain tissue. Nearly 15 million people suffer from stroke every year and it kills five million people and disables another five million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In India, about 1.5 million people reportedly suffer strokes every year.