Whispering Stroke

By: Alere Staff
Publication Date: Mon, 03/19/2012

Stroke is a health risk for aging people, and will remain a major public health challenge as the population ages. Strokes can manifest in a variety of ways, from a totally asymptomatic stroke found only by autopsy to an overtly obvious attack with all the traditional symptoms.

A team of researchers, led by George Howard, MPH from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has identified a previously unrecognized form of stroke called “whispering stroke” Unlike a “silent stroke,” which has no symptoms and is detectable only by brain imaging, whispering stroke is accompanied by mild symptoms but is not diagnosed by clinicians as a stroke. Their study is published in the August 2, 2007 online issue of Stroke.1

In a study designed to investigate geographic and racial factors underlying differences in stroke etiology, the physical and mental competency of over 16,000 men and women aged 45 or older was assessed. Researchers analyzed these competency scores based on the following four classes: history of stroke, history of transient ischemic attack (TIA), complete absence of stroke symptoms, and history of stroke symptoms but no diagnosis of stroke or TIA. They found that, when compared to those without any symptoms, participants with symptoms of stroke but no diagnosis exhibited deficits in both physical and mental achievement: scoring an average of 5.5 and 2.7 points lower, respectively.1

This study identifies a new flavor of stroke that can threaten the quality of life of many unsuspecting people. Whispering stroke is defined as a condition with mild stroke symptoms in the absence of diagnosed stroke or TIA, and which results in decreased physical or mental function. About 18% of people with no history of stroke report having experienced stroke symptoms, representing a large population at risk for whispering stroke.

  1. Howard et al.Stroke Symptoms in Individuals Reporting No Prior Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack Are Associated With a Decrease in Indices of Mental and Physical Functioning. Stroke 2007;38:2446-2452.