Mary B. Martin suffered from a progressive loss of mental function first noted in the mid 1980s that progressed to her bedridden status in the early 90s. She underwent a complete neurologic exam in the 80s (including MRI) and her condition was felt consistent with Alzheimer's disease although small vessel hypertensive disease could not be ruled out. She had no evidence of hardening in the arteries in her neck (the most common cause of stroke) when she was checked for this in 1985. Raymond always thought that she had suffered from a series of strokes. First because she would have plateaus of function and rather abrupt declines in function. Secondly, after Mary was showing signs of neurologic deterioration, she confided in him that she thought that she had had a slight stroke.
Upon her death, Mary's body was taken to the U T Medical Branch in Galveston where a limited autopsy of her brain was performed. This showed severe deterioration in the frontal and parietal areas of the brain ( centers of memory and motor function) and hardening of the small arteries in the brain consistent with hypertensive vascular disease. Diabetes mellitus could produce a similar conditon but she did not have diabetes. The hardening of her arteries was particularly severe at the base of her brain. There was no evidence of Alzheimer's disease or other neurodegenerative conditions.
These findings are consistent with a familial pattern of atherosclerosis and hypertension and her mental decline in function was in many ways similar to her two closest sisters in age, Dot and Helen. Members of the Brunson family have had problems with hypertension in the past. I am not clear on the incidence of stroke in the family
From my perspective, the take-home message from these findings from the standpoint of Matthew E. Brunson/Minnie Seale Brunson progeny should be to be very vigilant in managing your blood pressure and take a "baby" aspirin a day. As more is learned about this condition of small strokes that produce a summation of mental decline, I suspect that even modest elevations of blood pressure in an individual so inclined will be found to contribute to the development of this condition.
If you have further questions, please email me. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On behalf of Kathryn and Raymond, I wish to thank you for your kind words, deeds, and prayers in this time of our loss.
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