Harvard Heart Letter

Can memory woes foretell a stroke?

Well-educated people who report memory problems may face a higher risk of stroke.

Minor memory slips—such as losing your keys or forgetting an acquaintance's name—are common as we age. However, people who express concern about their memory may have a heightened risk of stroke, particularly if they're highly educated, according to a study in the January 2015 Stroke.

More than 9,100 people ages 55 and older were asked, "Do you have memory complaints?" One in nine suffered a stroke during the follow-up, which lasted an average of 12.2 years. Over all, 20% of those reporting memory loss had a stroke. But the rate was 39% among people who had the highest levels of education, defined as university or advanced vocational training.

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