The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has found a much deeper link between heart disease, stroke and cognitive decline than medical experts previously thought.
New groundbreaking research looked at hospitalizations from 2007 to 2017 and revealed that people who have one vascular condition are at a much higher risk for developing multiple vascular conditions. A full 40% of these patients were admitted at least one or more times for a related illness.
Some of the findings include a higher risk of vascular cognitive impairment for patients with heart failure, congenital heart disease and atrial fibrillation.
According to the report:
- People with heart failure are 2.6 times more likely to experience vascular cognitive impairment
- Congenital heart disease may triple the risk of early onset vascular cognitive impairment (under age 65) and increase the risk of late onset vascular cognitive impairment by 30 per cent
- People with atrial fibrillation are 1.4 times more likely to experience vascular cognitive impairment
- People with heart valve disease have a 25 per cent increased risk of vascular cognitive impairment
- Thirty percent of people who experience a second stroke are at risk of developing vascular cognitive impairment
The study also highlights significant gaps in our current medical system which favours a system based on one-discipline medical professionals. Specialists of related fields need to work better together to help Canadians prevent health conditions that are inter-connected like vascular dementia.
Canadians also need to be more proactive about their health by ensuring doctors check for other conditions now known to be related and linked. Canadians should also prioritize prevention and know the risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
There are several risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Some can be controlled while others cannot.
Uncontrollable risk factors include:
- Gender (males are at greater risk)
- Age (the older you get, the higher your risk)
- A family history of heart disease
- Post-menopausal women (heart disease increases after menopause)
Risk factors that can be controlled are:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Diabetes and high blood sugar levels
- Stress and anger
Making some lifestyle changes can reduce your chance of having heart disease, stroke and dementia and it’s never too late to start. First aid courses can help Canadians become more knowledgeable about risk factors and learn how to help a person having a heart attack or stroke.