Study: Brain Injury May Increase Stroke Risk

We have all heard about the common risk factors for stroke and how we can reduce our risk. We know things like high blood pressure, smoking and obesity put us at risk. But a recent study has found one more preventable risk factor: traumatic brain injury.

In a study published this week in the journal Neurology, researchers analyzed several databases from hospitals in California, collecting data on people who visited the ER or were discharged from a hospital between 2005 and 2009. Of those adults included in the study, more than 400,000 had sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and more than 700,000 had sustained a trauma without a brain injury.

What the researchers found surprised even them. After accounting for stroke risk factors, the severity of the trauma and the age of the patient, they found those with TBI were 30% more likely to have a stroke than their non-TBI counterparts. Yes, you read that right – 30%. To give you an idea of what that means, study author Dr. James Burke noted that given these results, TBI may be “as big a risk factor [for stroke] as is high blood pressure.”

The big question now is this: what does that all mean?

Well, right now, researchers aren’t sure. The study wasn’t designed to measure a cause-and-effect relationship, so the connection is still unknown. Dr. Burke said if it does turn out that TBI directly increases stroke risk, it could be due to the fact that brain injuries damage blood vessels in the brain, making them more susceptible to stroke.

So if you have had a TBI, what should you do to control your stroke risk? Dr. Burke says not to worry, and just do what we all do – reduce your stroke risk by maintaining a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.

For more tips on ways to reduce your stroke risk, check out the National Stroke Association’s page on Controllable Risk Factors.

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