Stroke-Associated Damage To Brain Structure May Lead To Heart Attack

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Heart Attack and Stroke

Researchers using a new method of analyzing brain images have identified an area of the brain that, when affected by a stroke, may also cause damage to the heart muscle. The study, from the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), finds that stroke patients with damage to the right insula, an area deep within the brain, were much more likely also to have biochemical evidence of myocardial damage occurring in the days following their stroke. Their report will appear in the May 9 issue of the journal Neurology and has received early online release.

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"The link between the brain and the heart in stroke patients is fascinating. For instance, most patients with acute stroke have elevated blood pressure that returns to baseline over three to seven days. The connection is believed to be through the autonomic nervous system, but what the mechanism is has been unclear," says A. Gregory Sorensen, MD, of the Martinos Center, the paper's senior author. "By finding a specific brain area associated with a dramatically increased risk of heart damage, we can identify at-risk patients when they arrive at the hospital and put them on protective therapy, which should have a direct impact on their care."

About 5 percent of stroke patients will also have a heart attack

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