People have higher risks of suffering subsequent strokes and dementia if they had  heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure before their first stroke, according to a study.

Researchers compared 1,237 stroke survivors to a stroke-free group of about 5,000 people from an existing long-term study. They found:

  • One year after suffering a stroke, survivors retained a high risk of a recurrent stroke or dementia for at least five years.
  • After one year, first-time stroke survivors were three times more likely than those who hadn’t suffered a stroke to have a recurrent stroke.
  • Stroke survivors were nearly two times more likely to have dementia than those who hadn’t suffered a stroke.
  • Among stroke survivors, 39 percent of recurrent strokes and 10 percent of post-stroke dementia cases were attributed to pre-stroke cardiovascular risk factors, including high blood pressure; diabetes; low levels of high-density lipoprotein good cholesterol; smoking; and transient ischemic attack, or mini stroke.

“We already know that stroke patients have an increased risk of recurrent stroke and dementia; what we didn’t know was whether this increased risk persists for a long time after stroke and whether heart disease risk factors present before the first stroke influenced the risk of recurrent strokes or dementia,” said M. Arfan Ikram, M.D., Ph.D., senior study author and associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Neurology and Radiology at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


The research was published Thursday in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.