Wayne’s story speaks volumes about why we fund research looking into more than heart disease. Heart and circulatory diseases are often connected. They can have the same risk factors and one can lead to another. Wayne’s story below is just one example. But everyone’s story is different.
What is vascular dementia and stroke?
Vascular dementia happens when there's a problem with the blood supply to part of your brain, which can happen after a stroke. It means the cells in the affected area of your brain don’t get enough oxygen or nutrients and start to die. This then can then lead to upsetting symptoms, such as memory problems, concentration problems and personality changes. People with a history of heart disease are twice as likely to develop vascular dementia.
There are two main types of stroke. One is caused by a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain, sometimes by a blood clot that travelled from the heart. The other type of stroke is caused by a bleed in or around the brain. Both lead to the blood supply to part of your brain being cut off, causing cells in the brain to become damaged or die. People with heart failure are two to three times more likely to have a stroke.
There are connections that we don’t fully understand yet - but we will keep going until we do.
Our research into vascular dementia
Professor Joanna Wardlaw is leading a project focused on vascular dementia, funded by the BHF, in partnership with the Stroke Association and Alzheimer’s Society. She and her team want to find ways to identify people who are most at risk of developing vascular dementia after having a stroke.
To do this, they are recruiting people who have had a stroke, and are collecting a wide range of information about them. They are testing their thinking skills, performing brain scans and looking for markers in their blood or genes. Because if we are able to detect people at risk of vascular dementia early, we can take action and provide advice and management strategies. Participants in the study will also be able to join clinical trials as new treatments become ready for testing.
Our research into stroke
One of the many stroke research projects we fund each year is being led by BHF Professor Barbara Casadei. It’s focused on the connection between atrial fibrillation, stroke and brain function. Short episodes of atrial fibrillation are relatively common in the elderly and tend to go unnoticed. But it’s possible that these silent episodes of atrial fibrillation could cause damage to the brain, affecting how it functions., This could potentially be prevented by drugs if doctors were aware of silent episodes of atrial fibrillation.
Professor Casadei and her team are using a small device attached to the chest to monitor the heart rhythms of 20,000 people. They will measure people’s brain function and use brain scans to detect damage to blood vessels in the brain. They will see if ongoing, silent episodes of atrial fibrillation could be linked to future cases of hospitalisation, dementia, heart attacks, stroke or even death.
The ultimate goal is to identify a group of at-risk patients, who can then receive appropriate advice and treatment, potentially preventing many occurrences of stroke and decline in brain function.
Stroke can cause vascular dementia and there is currently no cure. With your support we can keep funding research into all heart and circulatory diseases and their risk factors. Every breakthrough we’ve made has been funded by people like you. So please donate today. It could help save someone you love in the future.