Stroke (sometimes called a cerebrovascular accident) is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain, caused by a blocked or burst blood vessel. This can be due to thrombosis or arterial embolism or due to a haemorrhage. As a result, the affected area of the brain is unable to function, leading to the inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech, or inability to see one side of the visual field. It is one of the leading cause of adult disability worldwide, and risk factors include advanced age, hypertension (high blood pressure), previous stroke or transient ischemic attack, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking and atrial fibrillation.
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People whose stroke has affected the right side of the body are more likely to have difficulties with verbal memory e.g. remembering names.|
People whose stroke has affected the left side of the body usually have more trouble with visual memory e.g. remembering faces.
A stroke causes brain injury as the resulting lack of oxygen damages particular parts of the brain. If the temporal lobe of the brain is affected, the effects may include short-term memory impairment and difficulty acquiring and retaining new information, as well as problems with perception and attention, and may lead to full-blown dementia, often referred to as vascular dementia (an overall decline in thinking abilities, with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s).
Studies have shown that elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (defined as where memory problems due to old age are mild and do not generally interfere with normal daily activities) who also have a stroke have a much greater chance of developing dementia. Approximately one-third of stroke victims will develop memory problems and experience serious difficulties in other aspects of performing daily activities.
After a less severe stroke, memory often returns gradually over a period of weeks or months. Even after a severe stroke, improvement in memory may continue for up to two years, although it may be unrealistic to expect further progress after this time.