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Why Educated People Should Be Alarmed by Memory Loss

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If you’ve completed a university degree but find yourself struggling to remember things, it could be a sign that you’re at risk for suffering a stroke. That’s the finding of Dutch researchers who examined 9,000 people in the Rotterdam area over a two-decade period.

The study, which has been published in the journal Stroke, focused on people age 55 and over. Researchers from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands, used a questionnaire to ask people if they’d had any issues with their memory. Their primary finding: those people who had a university education and also struggled with memory loss had a 39 per cent greater risk of stroke compared to people with less education.

Arfan Ikram, an associate professor of neuroepidemiology at Erasmus University and one of the study’s lead authors, says an educated person should be more alarmed by memory loss.

“In people with a high level of education, it takes longer for the brain to be damaged and for dementia to occur,” Ikram said. “But if these people start complaining about their memory, then the mechanism is gone. This can be an indicator they have reached an advanced stage, when the cognitive reserve is not compensating any more.”

Strokes occur when blood vessels carrying oxygen to the brain become blocked, usually by some kind of a blood clot. When that occurs the brain can no longer access the oxygen it requires, resulting in the loss of brain cells.

Experts say it’s important that people with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all understand the signs of a stroke, which include sudden numbness on one side of the body, confusion, or trouble seeing out of both eyes.

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