Chronic Pain, Dementia and Stroke

As you can imagine, living with chronic pain can greatly reduce your quality of life. Unfortunately, it may also lead to the onset of other serious health problems.

Across the Globe

This was the finding of a team of researchers from China’s Chongqing Medical University. For this study, the Chongqing team relied on data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular cohort study of individuals from the city of Framingham, Massachusetts.

This particular study traces its roots back to 1948, and initially tracked the heart health of over 5,200 Caucasian men and women aged 30 to 62. Not surprisingly, the FHS was launched with the goal of learning more about heart disease. The FHS is still ongoing, and has enlisted the help of over 15,000 subjects to date.

Health Risks

Using this pool of data, the Chongqing team reviewed the health of 2,464 men and women, who were examined between the years 1990 and 1994. During this time, the volunteers were asked to complete questionnaires detailing their levels of pain. They also underwent laboratory testing for the same purpose. The authors found that about one in seven participants (347 totals) reported living with widespread pain.

Looking For Answers

In light of their findings, the researchers proposed three possible answers as to why pain, stroke and dementia appear to be linked. One explanation could be that those living with chronic pain are simply unable to exercise on a regular basis, and may not even be able to spend the time shopping for healthy foods. In turn, this lack of exercise and poor nutrition puts them at greater risk of dementia, stroke and other health problems.

A second possible answer is constant bouts of pain force the brain to use resources that would otherwise go towards maintaining its cognitive functions. The authors also put forward the idea that chronic pain could essentially qualify as an early stage of both all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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