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New Blood Test Predicts Stroke Risk and Cognitive Decline|Study

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blood test for stroke risk

A new publication says that a blood test might predict the likelihood of having a stroke or experiencing cognitive decline. The authors of the study identified a network of inflammatory molecules in the blood that allows the scoring of a person’s risk of developing cerebral small vessel disease, the frequent cause of strokes and cognitive decline. 

As of now, cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD) can best be diagnosed with an MRI, and the risk of stroke and cognitive decline is derived from calculations encompassing family history, demographic details, and other risk factors, including lifestyle. Interleukin-18, or IL-18, which are inflammatory molecules, are the main focus points of this study. These molecules have been linked to CSVD and strokes, and such levels fluctuate due to the immune responses to infections and autoimmune disorders, which makes it difficult to measure. In 2020, researchers linked five of these molecules to vascular brain injuries detected in MRI brain scans. 

This study analyzed the medical history of thousands of residents within the city of Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948. The final cohort of individuals represented in the study consisted of 2,201 people, aged 45 or above. For each, blood samples existed, as well as MRI scans. This allowed the researchers to develop a model with which they could score individuals’ stroke risk — higher scores meant a higher risk. 

For those who scored in the upper 25%, the risk of stroke at some point during their lifetime was 84%. Others whose scores were elevated to a lesser degree had a 51%. Cerebral small vessel disease is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It increases the risk for stroke and cognitive impairment yet often occurs silently. Small vessel disease typically refers to chronic and progressive damage to small arteries, called perforators, which branch off of large intracranial arteries and provide blood supply to the deep structures of the brain. 

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