Absentmindedness can be an early warning sign of silent strokes

  • A small study found that older adults with white matter damage caused by silent strokes noticed poorer attention and distractability.

A study involving 54 older adults (55-80), who possessed at least one risk factor for a stroke, found that those with white matter damage caused by silent strokes reported poor attentiveness and being distracted more frequently on day-to-day tasks. Despite these complaints, about half of these people scored within the normal range on tests of attention and executive function.

It’s suggested that adults who notice that they frequently lose their train of thought or often become sidetracked may in fact be displaying early symptoms of cerebral small vessel disease.

"Silent" strokes are so-called because they don’t have obvious effects as seen with an overt stroke. Typically, they’re not diagnosed until the damage has accumulated to such an extent that effects are seen, or by chance through MRI scans.

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-02/bcfg-apt020419.php

Reference: 

Dey, A. K., Stamenova, V., Bacopulos, A., Jeyakumar, N., Turner, G. R., Black, S. E., & Levine, B. (2019). Cognitive heterogeneity among community-dwelling older adults with cerebral small vessel disease. Neurobiology of Aging, 77, 183–193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2018.12.011

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