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Brain Stroke Risk Increases with COVID-19

Researchers have found that strokes were a common complication experienced by hospitalised adults with severe Covid-19, with higher rates than expected amongst younger people.

The study, led by a team at the University of Southampton in the UK, showed that risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure, contributed to the risk of stroke, including in younger people.

The study, published in the journal Brain Communications, looked into 267 cases of Covid-19 related neurological and psychiatric problems in the UK.

Of the 267 cases, strokes were the most frequently reported conditions, affecting nearly half of the patients. Over a quarter of strokes occurred in patients under 60 years old, many of whom had modifiable risk factors that meant they were already at risk of stroke.

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Other common conditions included delirium, psychiatric events and other evidence of damage to the brain (encephalopathy). More than 10 per cent of patients experienced more than one neurological condition, and these patients were more likely to require intensive care and ventilation.

“It was striking not only how many different neurological and psychiatric events we observed in this study, but also that some of these conditions occurred together within the same patients. This suggests Covid can affect multiple parts of the nervous system in the same patient,” said Dr Amy Ross-Russell, research fellow at the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

“Patients with strokes also had blood vessel blockages or thrombosis elsewhere in the body so this is important for understanding why some strokes occur during Covid-19,” Ross-Russell added.

The finding suggests that Covid-19 amplifies the risk of stroke, including in younger people. Public health measures could reduce this, including lifestyle measures to avoid developing diabetes and high blood pressure, good control of blood sugar and blood pressure, and avoiding the risk of severe Covid-19 through vaccination and other public health measures.

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