May 2 (UPI) -- Researchers find stroke a prevention strategy has an unexpected and beneficial side effect in that it appears to correlate with a reduction in dementia.
New research examines the demographics of both stroke and dementia across the province of Ontario, Canada, for the first time since the country implemented a prevention strategy in 2000, finding a drop in incidence of stroke correlated with a lower risk of dementia in people 80 years old and above.
Strokes are commonly caused by a restriction or constriction of blood flow to the brain, as is vascular dementia.
"Some have said we're on the cusp of an epidemic of dementia as the population ages," Joshua Cerasuolo, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, said in a press release. "What this data suggests is that by successfully fighting off the risks of stroke -- with a healthy diet, exercise, a tobacco-free life and high blood-pressure medication where needed -- we can also curtail the incidence of some dementias."
Researchers found that the incidence of new stroke diagnosis among people age 80 and older dropped by 37.9 percent in a little over a decade while at the same time, the incidence of dementia diagnoses dropped by 15.4 percent in the same age group.
Canada's stroke prevention strategy involves access to more health centers able to manage stroke, more community and physician supports, better use of hypertensive mediation and well-promoted lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of stroke.
"With lifestyle changes, we can reduce our risks of both stroke and some dementias," said Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, a clinical neuroscientist at the Schulich School. "We have systems in place for stroke prevention and our hypothesis is that any studies looking at stroke prevention should also investigate dementia prevention."
Researchers found that a person who has had a stroke is twice as likely to develop dementia, because the diagnosis of stroke may include undiagnosed prior silent strokes that can affect cognitive abilities.