This type of pain linked to higher dementia and stroke risk

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In a new study, researchers found widespread pain is linked to a heightened risk of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.

And this association is independent of potentially influential factors, such as age, general health, and lifestyle.

Widespread pain is a common subtype of chronic pain that may reflect musculoskeletal disorders.

Several studies suggest that it can reliably predict cancer, peripheral arterial disease, and cardiovascular disease, and it has been linked to a heightened risk of death.

While chronic pain may be an early indicator of cognitive decline, it’s not clear if widespread pain might also be linked to a heightened risk of dementia and stroke.

In the study, the researchers drew on data from 2464 second-generation participants of the US long-term, multigenerational, community-based Framingham Heart Study, known as the Offspring Study.

Participants were given a comprehensive check-up, which included a physical exam, lab tests, and detailed pain assessments between 1990 and 1994.

They were divided into three pain groups: Widespread pain—defined according to American College of Rheumatology criteria as pain above and below the waist, on both sides of the body, the skull, backbone and ribs (347 people; 14%).

Other pain—classified as pain in one or more joint(s) only or no pain in any joints (2117 people in total).

Participants were then continuously monitored for the beginnings of cognitive decline and clinical dementia (average of 10 years) or a first stroke (average of 15 years).

The team found people with widespread pain were 43% more likely to have any type of dementia, 47% more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease, and 29% more likely to have a stroke than those without widespread pain.

When only the over 65s were included, these risks were comparable: 39% heightened risk of all types of dementia; 48% heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease; and 54% heightened risk of stroke.

These findings provide convincing evidence that widespread pain may be a risk factor for all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke.

The team says widespread pain might directly affect the cognitive function or it might be part of a prodromal phase of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Further larger studies are needed to explore these possibilities.

If you care about dementia, please read studies about sleep problems linked to higher dementia risk in these people and findings of more older people may have undiagnosed dementia than previously thought.

For more information about dementia and your health, please see recent studies about this simple blood test can accurately detect dementia in older people and results showing that your walking speed may show your dementia and depression risks.

The study is published in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

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