Stroke affects more than just your physical function

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is somehow stopped - like when an artery to the brain is blocked (an ischaemic stroke) or the artery bursts (haemorrhagic stroke). That can cause brain cells to die, and lead to lasting brain damage and disability. Strokes can affect our movement, speech, coordination and memory. As you’d know, these consequences of stroke have been well studied but how else does a stroke affect someone’s life?

In this study, the researchers didn’t just want to look at the physical impairment caused by an ischaemic stroke, they also wanted to measure how that stroke affected other aspects of the patient’s world - things like depression, anxiety, sleep and how satisfied they were with the social role they performed day-to-day. More than a thousand people participated in the study, and each of them submitted self-reported information about their physical, mental and social health. The average age of a participant in the study was 62.

Analysis of the data found that compared with the general population, those who had had an ischaemic stroke reported significantly worse outcomes across all areas of their health. As expected, the biggest discrepancy between the general population and those who had previously had a stroke was their physical function, but that was closely followed by satisfaction with the person’s social role - how satisfied they were with the part they played in society and what they contributed to the world. There was also a gap between the executive function of those who’d had a stroke and others - meaning they had poorer attention, impulse control and working memory.

Implications

The rehabilitation of those who’ve had a stroke often focuses on improving their physical ability - but this study suggests that for many stroke victims, enhancing their feelings of social worth and inclusion are also vital. The study’s authors suggest that treatment approaches for stroke include interventions around social participation, noting that exercise (when it suits the level of ability of the person) can be a useful tool to achieve this.

References

Katzan et al. (2018). The most affected health domains after ischemic stroke. Neurology doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005327.