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Understanding the Effects of Silent Stroke on Memory

By Erik Gans, 8:00 am on

Unlike regular strokes, silent strokes may last for just a few minutes and cause no recognizable symptoms. However, memory problems are one of the most common, but hard to recognize, symptoms of a silent stroke that can lead to permanent damage. Fairfield Home Care Assistance explains how a silent stroke can affect memory. 

How a Silent Stroke Affects Memory
Not so long ago, very little was known about the effects of silent strokes, nor was it known just how common they really are. A 2011 study conducted by the National Institutes on Health examined hundreds of seniors who had no history of memory problems or dementia. Researchers tracked interruptions in blood supply to participants’ brains with MRIs and administered memory tests. At the end of the study, about 25% of seniors showed evidence of a silent stroke, but the majority had no reported stroke symptoms.

Researchers found that the seniors who had a silent stroke had trouble with cognition and memory and performed worse on memory tests than they had at the start of the study.

This groundbreaking study found that even silent strokes can cause memory problems, but they tend to be subtle. The type of memory loss or forgetfulness that is often blamed on normal aging may in fact be caused by a silent stroke, which causes very small spots of dead cells within the brain. These strokes are called “silent” because they damage areas of the brain that do not control vital functions, which means seniors do not have obvious impairments afterward like facial drooping or trouble speaking. 

Stroke and Vascular Dementia Risk
Along with the subtle memory problems that can result from a silent stroke, someone who experiences multiple silent strokes may also develop something called vascular dementia, a type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia causes a progressive decline in cognitive abilities and memory. Depending on the number and severity of the strokes, this dementia may come on very suddenly or slowly and it may be mild or severe.

Vascular disease is a major risk factor for silent strokes, and it’s believed that it may also contribute to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are now studying participants over a longer time period to determine if seniors who have silent strokes have an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Both live-in and hourly caregivers should be aware that silent strokes are often a sign that a senior is at risk for a more serious stroke and know what outward symptoms indicate a regular stroke. Silent strokes can also occur many times in a short time period, which can lead to worsening damage and further memory issues.

If you need help caring for a loved one post-stroke or are looking for help managing ongoing care needs, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We are a trusted provider of stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia care in Fairfield. Our trusted caregivers are available 24/7 and can help with errands, grocery shopping, meal prep, bathing, grooming, incontinence, transportation, mobility support, and more. Call 203-955-1915 to speak with an experienced Care Manager and learn more about our care services.