Being born with a heart defect can lead to a higher rate of having a stroke later on in life. “A congenital heart defect is a heart abnormality present at birth. These defects encompass a wide range of disease entities, some presenting as life threatening conditions soon after birth, others only developing symptoms later in adulthood.
Seeking to uncover the frequency, risk and strongest predictors of stroke, researchers analyzed stroke data on 29,638 congenital heart disease patients, 18-64 years old, and compared rates with those observed in the general population of Quebec, Canada. They found:
- Stroke rates caused by a blood clot blocking a cerebral artery, known as ischemic stroke, was roughly 9 to 12 times higher in adults with congenital heart defects before the age of 55, and 2 to 4 times higher in patients between the ages 55 and 64.
- Stroke rates from a bleed in the brain, known as hemorrhagic stroke, was 5 to 6 times higher in adults with congenital heart defects before the age of 55, and 2 to 3 times higher in patients between the ages of 55 and 64.
- 8.9 percent of men and 6.8 percent of women with congenital heart defects experienced at least one stroke before age 65.
- Heart failure, diabetes and recent heart attacks were the strongest predictors of ischemic stroke in adults with heart defects.
“We knew there was a connection between heart failure and stroke in patients with heart defects, but we were surprised to discover it was the strongest predictor,” said Ariane Marelli, M.D., M.P.H., study senior author and professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. “Our study also suggests that other well-known risk factors for stroke, such as irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure may be under-detected in patients born with a heart defect,” said Jonas Lanz, M.D., M.Sc., first author of the study and research fellow at McGill University.”
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