Objective: Long-term cognitive development is variable among stroke survivors, with a high proportion developing dementia. Early identification of those at risk is highly desirable to target interventions for secondary prevention. Telomere length in peripheral blood mononuclear cells was tested as prognostic risk marker.
Methods: A cohort of 195 nondemented stroke survivors was followed prospectively from 3 months after stroke for 2 years for cognitive assessment and diagnosis of dementia and for 5 years for survival. Telomere lengths in peripheral blood mononuclear cells were measured at 3 months after stroke by in-gel hybridization. Hazard ratios for survival in relation to telomere length and odds ratios for dementia were estimated using multivariate techniques, and changes in Mini-Mental State Examination scores between baseline and 2 years were related to telomere length using multivariate linear regression.
Results: Longer telomeres at baseline were associated with reduced risk for death (hazard ratio for linear trend per 1,000 bp = 0.52; 95% confidence interval, 0.28-0.98; p = 0.04, adjusted for age) and dementia (odds ratio for linear trend per 1,000 bp = 0.19; 95% confidence interval, 0.07-0.54; p = 0.002) and less reduction in Mini-Mental State Examination score (p = 0.04, adjusted for baseline score).
Interpretation: Telomere length is a prognostic marker for poststroke cognitive decline, dementia, and death.