File photo: NYC ambulance on street, April, 2006.

Essential Science: Is it possible to predict stroke risk?

A new study, from the University of Virginia Health System, suggests that the use of an online calculator can predict an individuals stroke risk. This, and other studies relating to stroke risk, are examined as part of this Essential Science column.


It may be possible to predict a patients' stroke risk by using an online tool. This digital calculator assesses the severity of a person's metabolic syndrome. This is a conglomeration of conditions that includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and excess body fat. Metabolic syndrome is most closely associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

To draw inferences between metabolic activity and the risk of stroke, the researchers used a study consisting of 13,000 participants. Within this group, there were 709 ischemic strokes over a mean period of 18.6 years assessed in the studies. Using the data, the scientists produced what they describe as "Z scores", which are measures the severity of metabolic syndrome among the study participants and how this correlates with stroke risk factors.
A top-down PET-scan image of the human brain emitting energy from various regions.PET-image by Jens Maus

As well as analyzing lifestyle factors, the new tool shows how losing weight, exercising more, choosing healthy foods can help address metabolic syndrome and its harmful effects.

The new tool is available for free at [url=]

The development of the calculator is described in the journal Stroke, in a research paper titled "Risk of Ischemic Stroke Increases Over the Spectrum of Metabolic Syndrome Severity."

Other predictors

The new study suggests that the warning signs of an ischemic stroke are probably apparent as early as seven days before an attack. At this stage it is possible to deliver urgent treatment as so to prevent serious damage to the brain.
File photo: A nurse at a nurses' station.goodcatmum (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The research has been published in the journal Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Stroke protection

In terms of measures to prevent stroke, a study reported on by the American Heart Association suggests that the shingles vaccine appears to reduce stroke risk by about 16 percent in older adults. In addition, the shingles vaccine may offer the strongest protection against stroke for people younger than 80.

Stroke triggers

There are different factors that can potentially trigger stroke, and this remains an emerging field. As an example, the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that anti-hypertension medicines can increase stroke risk by 248 percent, according to new research. The researchers found that although although high-blood pressure medications are beneficial, it is as risky to wait for the condition to develop and then treat it to a controlled level.

Another study, by the Loyola University Health System, found that some oral contraceptives can increase the risk of ischemic stroke, but this risk is very small among women who do not have other stroke risk factors. In particular, for women with other stroke risk factors, the risk of a stroke seems higher.
Fruit and veg stand 2Michael Cosgrove

Research conducted by the European Society of Cardiology discovered that different types of food are linked to risks of different types of stroke. The study of more than 418,000 people in nine European countries investigated ischaemic stroke and haemorrhagic stroke separately.

The research found that the total amount of fibre (including fibre from fruit, vegetables, cereal, legumes, nuts and seeds) that people ate was associated with the greatest potential reduction in the risk of ischaemic stroke. In addition,f ruit and vegetables alone were associated with a 13 percent lower risk for every 200 grams eaten each day.

Post-stroke treatments

Dealing with someone who has suffered with a stroke in terms of helping them to improve their mobility can be challenging. One area of potential has been highlighted by researchers from Lund University. Here neurologists succeeded in restoring mobility and sensation of touch in stroke-afflicted rats by reprogramming human skin cells to become nerve cells, which were then transplanted into the rats' brains.

The findings suggest that it may actually be possible to repair a stroke-damaged brain and recreate nerve connections that have been lost. The therapy shows promise and it is hoped further success means that the therapy will become applicable for use with patients.

Essential Science

This article forms part of Digital Journal’s long-running Essential Science series. Each week we present a new science finding, covering a diverse range of subjects.
Bumblebee on a flower. St Albans, UK.Tim Sandle

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