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The study also found that high levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, acquired mostly from eating meat, also boosts post-stroke disability.
"People with low levels of HDL, high levels of homocysteine, and diabetes are twice as likely as those without such problems to have poorer cognitive function and greater disability after stroke," study author Dr. George C. Newman, with the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, said in a prepared statement.
His team looked at 3,680 women and men over age 35 in Canada, Scotland and the United States who'd suffered a mild to moderate stroke within the previous three months. The patients underwent cognitive and disability tests at the start of the study and were followed for two years.
Reporting in the Nov. 27 issue of the journal Neurology, the team identified several factors that predicted post-stroke memory and disability problems: lower HDL levels and higher levels of homocysteine; increased age; non-Caucasian race; recurrent stroke; diabetes; and stroke occurring in the brain's left hemisphere.
"The study also found stroke recovery was the most difficult for people over the age of 57 with high levels of homocysteine, which is a risk factor for heart problems and associated with low levels of vitamin B6, B12, folic acid and kidney disease," Newman said.
It's unclear why these factors are linked to slower stroke recovery and more research is needed, he said.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Nov. 26, 2007
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