Stroke and Alzheimer’s disease are more intimately linked than people realize. Approximately one-in-three Ontarians will develop stroke, dementia or both, and the incidence for each increases the risk of the other. Stroke is the second most common cause of dementia and is often combined with Alzheimer’s disease.
While it’s widely understood that stroke can deprive brain cells of oxygen and lead to vascular dementia - the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease - these two diseases are intertwined in more subtle and surprising ways.
An influential study of a group of 102 elderly nuns whose brains were examined after death showed those who showed significant signs of brain damage from Alzheimer’s disease and had suffered small strokes were far more likely to have dementia than those whose brains were damaged by Alzheimer’s alone.
“In older adults without Alzheimer’s disease, those who were very physically active were 40% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were inactive,” said David Harvey, Chief Public Policy and Program Initiatives Officer at the Alzheimer Society of Ontario. “Healthy eating can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and by reducing the risks of these diseases, the risk of dementia is also decreased.”
Vigorous management of vascular risk factors helps, such as:
- A heart healthy diet
Even in midlife, these play a crucial role for dementia as well as stroke prevention.
Learn more about how to improve your brain health.