Memory Trajectories Before and After First and Recurrent Strokes

Background and Objectives

Evidence on timing of memory change after first and recurrent strokes is limited and inconsistent. We investigated memory trajectories before and after first and recurrent strokes in 18 European countries and tested whether the country-level acute stroke care was associated with memory change after stroke.

Methods

Data were from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (2004–2019). Incident first and recurrent strokes were identified among baseline stroke-free individuals. Within each country, each participant with incident stroke (case group) was matched with a stroke-free individual (control group) using propensity score matching. We applied multilevel segmented linear regression to quantify acute and accelerated memory changes (measured by the sum score of immediate and delayed word recall tests; 0–20 words) before and after first and recurrent strokes in both groups. Associations between stroke and memory were compared between countries with different levels of acute stroke care indicators.

Results

The final analytical sample included 35,164 participants who were stroke-free at baseline (≥50 years). A total of 2,362 incident first and 341 recurrent strokes between 2004 and 2019 were identified. In case groups, mean acute decreases in memory scores were 0.48 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.31, 0.65) and 1.14 (95% CI 0.80, 1.48) words after first and recurrent stroke, respectively, independent of a range of confounders. No such acute decreases were observed in the control group after a hypothetical nonstroke onset date. In both groups, memory declined over time but decline rates were similar (–0.07 [95% CI –0.10, –0.05] vs –0.06 [95% CI –0.08, –0.05] words per year). The mean acute decreases in memory scores after first and recurrent strokes were smaller in countries with better access to endovascular treatment.

Discussion

We found acute decreases but not accelerated declines in memory after first and recurrent strokes. Improved endovascular therapy might be associated with smaller memory loss after stroke but more evidence based on individual-level data is needed. More effort should be made in early assessment and intensive prevention of stroke among the ageing population and promoting access to and delivery of acute stroke care among patients with stroke.

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