Health Day - ONLINE EDITION

Even Minor Strokes May Take Years Off Life, Study Says

Prevention is crucial, neurologists agree

  • Print

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Despite life-saving advances in treating strokes, these "brain attacks" can shave years off of a person's life and seriously impair the quality of the years they have left, a new study shows.

The damage is most pronounced after a severe stroke, but even those people who have a so-called mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) are at risk. The new findings appear online in the Oct. 9 issue of the journal Neurology.

Experts stress that preventing strokes by taking control of known risk factors such as high blood pressure remains the best way to improve the outlook for patients. Strokes occur when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked. The National Stroke Association estimates that as many as 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

In the new study, nearly 750 people who had a stroke and about 450 who experienced a TIA were followed for five years. They completed questionnaires about their post-stroke quality of life. Of the full-blown strokes, close to 60 percent were considered minor, 23 percent were moderate and 18 percent were severe.

When compared to members of the general population, a person who has a stroke will, on average, lose 1.71 out of five years of perfect health due to an earlier death. In addition, the stroke will cost them another 1.08 years due to reduced quality of life, the study found.

In total, people who have had strokes lose an average of 2.79 "quality-adjusted life years." This is a measure that quantifies survival and quality of life in the same scale.

And the more severe the stroke, the greater the loss in terms of quality-adjusted life years, the study showed. Older people, women and those who had a second stroke also were at higher risk for worsening quality of life and earlier death after the stroke.

Exactly how strokes affect quality of life varies. They can hamper a person's ability to walk, talk or perform daily activities such as bathing, eating and getting dressed.

"The degree to which a stroke will impact an individual's quality of life will be driven by the severity of the event," said study co-author Ramon Luengo-Fernandez, a senior researcher and associate research fellow at the University of Oxford, in England. "Whereas in many cases a minor stroke may have little impact on a patient's life, a severe stroke will almost invariably pose a considerable negative impact."

This study is believed to be the first to assign such a value to mini-strokes. Like a stroke, a TIA is marked by an inability to move, numbness on one side of the body or difficulty speaking. Unlike in many strokes, however, these symptoms often are fleeting and leave little or no signs of permanent damage to the brain. Still, the study showed that they do affect quality of life going forward.

"TIA, on its own, would be expected to have little impact on quality of life; however, the combined impact of medication, anxiety about suffering subsequent events and, for those in employment, the impact on their working life will impact quality of life," Luengo-Fernandez said. "We found that suffering subsequent strokes following TIA significantly and considerably reduced quality of life."

Avoiding stroke is the key. "By preventing a stroke in the first place, we will also improve quality of life," Luengo-Fernandez said. "Cost-effective treatments such as cholesterol-lowering drugs and treatments for reducing high blood pressure already exist that significantly reduce the risk not only of stroke, but also cardiovascular events."

"In addition, reducing risk factors for stroke, [such as] obesity, smoking and physical inactivity, will also reduce the risk of suffering a stroke," he said.

A U.S. expert agreed that preventing strokes is the way forward.

"We need to do a better job of addressing high blood pressure before stroke; controlling cholesterol and diabetes; and encouraging smoking cessation, daily exercise and a healthy diet," said Dr. Zeshaun Khawaja, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. These measures are all known to lower risk of stroke and heart disease.

The study showed what it's like to survive a stroke from the vantage point of the person who suffered it, another expert said.

Dr. Richard Libman, vice chairman of neurology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., added: "The quality of life of the person is what counts. Even though we are doing well with treating strokes, a lot of patients will say their quality of life is compromised, and this is an incentive for us to do better."

This includes prevention, but "we also need to focus more on measures which keep them alive and improve their quality of life," Libman said. "It appears that there is much more to treating strokes than just clot-busting drugs or advanced technology."

Clot busters are emergency drugs that, when given within a specific time window, can save lives and stave off lasting disability after some types of strokes.

More information

Get schooled on stroke prevention at the National Stroke Association.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

J.P. Vigier’s Whiteboard: Coach Maurice’s first full season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young gosling prepares to eat dandelions on King Edward St Thursday morning-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 17- bonus - May 24, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS BUSINESS - cow on farm owned by cattle farmer Lloyd Buchanan near Argyle Wednesday afternoon -see Larry Kusch's story  January 04/2006

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think the Scottish independence referendum will have an effect in Canada?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google