Mild head injury increases stroke risk.

Mild head injury increases stroke risk.

Head Injuries Increase the Risk of Ischemic Stroke: A Surprising Connection

Head Injury

Any head injury, even a mild one, increases a person’s risk of later developing an ischemic stroke. Surprisingly, having multiple injuries raises that risk even more than the severity of a single traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by Dr. Holly Elser, a neurology resident at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The research included over 12,800 U.S. adults with no prior head injury or stroke history when the study began in 1987.

During the following 30 years, more than 2,100 individuals experienced a head injury, with approximately 73% being classified as mild. Ultimately, over 140 of the participants had an ischemic stroke.

Multiple Head Injuries Increase the Risk of Stroke

The findings of the study revealed a 32% increased risk of ischemic stroke among those who had experienced a head injury. However, the risk further escalated for those with two or more head injuries, showing a 94% increased risk compared to individuals with no head injury. Interestingly, age, race, and sex did not affect these results.

This unexpected connection emphasizes the importance of preventing head injuries to reduce the risk of stroke.

Understanding the Mechanism

Previous studies have shown that TBIs can increase the risk of stroke by damaging the tiny blood vessels, cells lining those vessels, and the inner layer of the arteries in the brain. As a result, blood flow can be blocked or slowed, potentially leading to an ischemic stroke.

Taking Preventive Measures

Dr. Elser states, “Our results emphasize the importance of measures that prevent head injury, like always wearing seatbelts in the car and wearing a helmet while biking.” Taking precautions to prevent head injuries can significantly reduce the chances of experiencing a stroke later in life.

The study also highlights the importance of stroke prevention measures for individuals who have suffered a head injury. This may include interventions such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, increasing physical activity, and smoking cessation.


The surprising link between head injuries and ischemic stroke emphasizes the significance of public health interventions to reduce the risk of head injuries. Moreover, it underscores the importance of stroke prevention measures, particularly for individuals with a history of head injury.

While these findings were presented at the American Neurological Association annual meeting, further research in peer-reviewed journals is necessary to solidify these conclusions. Nonetheless, it is clear that preventing head injuries and implementing measures to prevent strokes are vital for maintaining optimal brain health.

Diagram of Cerebral Arteries

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