Your risk of stroke can now be more easily predicted

It’s a leading cause of disability and death in many countries, and at least one in six Australians will have a stroke in their lifetime. What if your doctor was better able to predict your likelihood of having a stroke and provide you with a greater opportunity for prevention? Researchers have made an astonishing discovery that could help do just that.

A study published in the Neurology journal has revealed that if you have higher levels of four inflammatory biomarkers in your blood you are at a greater risk for stroke than those with lower levels.

The study’s co-author, Dr Ashkan Shoamanesh, and his colleagues say that further research is needed to determine how these biomarkers could be used in clinical practice yet their findings certainly pave the way for better prevention and treatment of stroke.

Stroke occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain is reduced, causing brain cell death.

According to the Stroke Foundation Australia, stroke is one of the biggest killers and a leading cause of disability, with more than 50,000 new and recurrent strokes (that’s 1,000 strokes a week or one stroke every 10 minutes) occurring in 2015 alone.

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The major risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

However, to reach their findings Dr Shaomanesh and his team analysed data from the Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort, which included more than 3,000 subjects with an average age of 61 who had no history of stroke. The team took blood samples from the participants and made assessments on 15 inflammatory biomarkers and noted that inflammatory cascades played a part in ischemic stroke, where a vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked.

When the research team looked at the participants’ blood samples they found high levels of the following four biomarkers were associated with greater stroke risk during the nine-year follow up:

  • In-tumor necrosis factor receptor 2, which had a 33 per cent increased stroke risk
  • Homocysteine, which had a 32 per cent increased risk
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  • In-C reactive protein, which has a 28 per cent increased risk
  • Vascular enothelial growth factor, which had a 25 per cent increased stroke risk.
  • “Identifying people who are at risk for stroke can help us determine who would benefit most from existing or new therapies to prevent stroke,” Dr Shoamanesh says.

    He says further research is needed to investigate whether lowering the levels of those biomarkers or blocking their action could prevent strokes.

    Have you suffered a stroke or do you know someone who has? How has it affected your way of life?