Previous research on strokes and white-matter disease has involved taking scans of participants' brains periodically over long stretches of time.
According to Mandell, evidence of mini-strokes disappears after just seven days. Scanning participants' brains weekly allowed researchers to identify the small strokes, and link them to the white-matter damage that directly followed them.
The research is still in its preliminary stages. Mandell says his team still doesn’t know for certain what causes the strokes in the first place. And since the study was comprised of so few people, larger and more in-depth studies need to be conducted in order to draw up more certain conclusions.
“The next step is to do a larger study with some sort of cognitive test to see if we can pick up in changes in cognition after the tiny strokes,” he says.
The research may also lead to strategies for treatment or prevention of Alzheimer's.
“Doctors know all about strokes,” Mandell says. “Now that we know that some, if not all, white matter damage is linked to these tiny little strokes, our knowledge about stroke treatment can be applied to treating and preventing dementia.”
He says controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol are all good steps.
Regular excercise, a balanced diet, and quitting smoking are also healthy habits that have been proven to reduce the risk of bigger strokes in adults.
Mandell's study was published late October, 2014, in the Annals of Neurology.
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