Last week we saw how an increased BMI leads to poor pregnancy outcomes and this week the results of a new and fascinating study were presented at the American Academy of Neurology, the 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. Apparently, the narrowing of carotid arteries (the two major blood vessels which deliver blood to the brain and are found in the neck) can be linked to problems with memory, thinking and even learning and decision-making.
Narrowing of Carotid Arteries
Up until now, the narrowing of carotid arteries meant that the patient would develop or have a high risk of developing stroke or transient ischemic attack, because the arteries would become blocked by plaque or fatty deposits, which would release small piece of debris, thus causing those medical issues. Also, the plaque would also restrict the flow of blood to the brain.
Dr. Drajesh K. Lal, one of the doctors involved in the study revealed that up until recently medical professionals would only be concerned with stroke prevention due to the narrowing of the carotid arteries, but this study shows that actually, this narrowing damages the health of a person much more than it was previously thought.
It was discovered that the status of memory, thinking and decision-making was affected by the narrowing of the carotid arteries.
67 patients with asymptomatic carotid stenosis (ACS) were assessed for the study. These patients had a 50% reduction in diameter of their carotid artery. Also, 60 more people were evaluated; people who had a high risk of developing ACS, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, but did not have ACS.
Both groups underwent testing for speed, memory, decision-making, language and learning and the results were impressive. It was found that patients with ACS had memory and thinking problems. They performed significantly worse than the patients with no narrowing of carotid arteries in the memory, thinking and processing speed. The language abilities were not affected by the narrowing of the carotid arteries.
Even though the study is small, the results are encouraging. If the same results are confirmed after larger studies are conducted, then a whole new approach to memory and thinking problems is going to be revealed. For example, surgery could be performed on patients with ACS, not only to prevent stroke, but to also improve their memory.
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