Critter Corner: Does Having a Stroke Increase Your Chances of Dementia? 

Hayek 1Dear Hayek, 

My aunt had a stroke pretty recently, and now she is having trouble remembering things, among other issues. Do strokes increase the chances of someone having dementia? If so, how long does it take to notice symptoms, and are there things we can do to minimize the risk? 

Thanks for your help! 

Minna Myes-Risk 


Dear Minna, 

I’m sorry to hear about your aunt. Hopefully, she got the help she needs and is doing better! 

The answer to your question is yes –– having a stroke very commonly leads to some short-term cognitive impairment and is well-known to be a major risk factor for developing a common type of permanent dementia known as vascular dementia.  

Every May, the Administration for Community Living (part of the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging), leads the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month. On May 1, the American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association teamed up to release a Scientific Statement about “Cognitive Impairment After Ischemic and Hemorrhagic Stroke” — noting that “cognitive impairment is reversible in some cases early after stroke, up to one-third of individuals with stroke develop dementia within 5 years.” Of course all of this depends on the severity of the stroke — the more severe the stroke, the greater likelihood for developing dementia. But even frequent TIAs (transient ischemic attacks), also known as mini strokes, can eventually cause vascular dementia. 

The good news is that there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of dementia after a stroke.   

Experts suggest it is important to take the necessary preventive measures to preserve your brain health after a stroke. Here are some things you can do to reduce your chances of developing dementia after a stroke:  

Recognize Cognitive Impairment​ After a Stroke 

Cognitive impairment after a stroke ranges from mild impairment to full-blown vascular dementia. Mild or not, the mental difficulties can seriously affect quality of life. 

Signs of cognitive impairment after a stroke​ can lead to problems remembering, thinking, planning, speaking, and paying attention. One may also experience difficulty in being able to work, drive, or live independently. 

Know When Cognitive Impairment Might Appear 

According to the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, permanent brain damage can occur within minutes to hours after a stroke. Immediate medical attention is necessary to minimize the impact of a stroke. 

Cognitive impairment is most common within the first two weeks after a stroke. Brain damage occurs when some cells stop getting oxygen and die. Bleeding in the brain may also lead to death of some brain cells. 

Mental decline can happen with other conditions associated with a stroke, such as behavioral and personality changes, depression, physical disability, and disruption in sleep. The good news is that the American Stroke Association says that about 20 percent of people who experience mild cognitive impairment after a stroke are able to fully recover their cognitive function, typically within the first six months. 

Know the Signs of a Stroke 

According to the Stroke Foundation, the acronym “FAST” is used to identify the warning signs of a stroke. It stands for FACE, ARM, SPEECH, TIME: 


Is one side of the face dropping? Look at their eyes, cheeks, and lips to check for any unusual asymmetry or droopiness. 


Is the person experiencing arm weakness? Ask them to raise both arms to shoulder height and check for one arm that seems lower than the other. 


Is the person’s speech slurred, or are they speaking in an unintelligible way? 


It’s time to call 911 or your local emergency services. Be sure to tell them you think it’s a stroke. 

Other important warning signs to be aware of are: 

  • The person seems to be having trouble understanding you or speaking coherently. 
  • The person appears to be confused, have trouble seeing or walking. 
  • The person is experiencing a painful headache. 
  • The person is experiencing numbness on their face, arm, legs, or a specific side of their body. 

According to the American Heart Association, cognitive impairment can be reversed if detected and treated soon after the stroke. However, most people will show improvement rather than complete recovery to pre-stroke cognitive levels. If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing a stroke, call 911 to get help as soon as possible for the best chance of recovering any cognitive impairment that may have resulted. 

For more details on strokes, please read Mr. Farr’s article on the subject. 

Hope this helps! 


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.