Stroke Patients: Get Happy, Get Moving

Managing depression after stroke improves ability to handle daily tasks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Anyone with depression should get help, but it's especially important for stroke patients if they want to complete day-to-day tasks and maintain their independence.

For a recent study, researchers looked at the links between managing depression after a stroke and patients' ability to complete tasks such as getting dressed, feeding oneself, and other daily functions. Their study revealed that stroke patients who were treated for depression significantly improved their ability to complete such tasks.

dailyRx insight: Stroke patients who successfully managed depression were more able to return to work and enjoy their free time, while also reducing the burden on caregivers.

The team of researchers - who come from the Regenstrief Institute, the schools of health and rehabilitation sciences and of medicine at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center - found that patients who stayed depressed for three months following a stroke were more likely to have problems completing daily tasks, compared to those who received help and successfully managed their depression.

In fact, patients whose depression was treated successfully showed significant improvement in their functional capabilities.

As much as one-third of people who suffer from a stroke develop depression. Studies have shown that stroke patients experience depression because of chemical changes in the brain.

According to Arlene A. Schmid, Ph.D., a Regenstrief Institute investigator and one of the study's authors, previous studies have examined depression and functional capability after stroke, but they did not assess whether treating depression improved patients' ability to complete tasks of daily living.

Stroke affects almost 6 million Americans every year, and it is the second leading cause of death behind Coronary artery disease and ahead of cancer. A stroke happens when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either by a blood clot in the brain or from another part of the body (ischemic stroke), or by a blood vessel in the brain breaking open from high blood pressure (hemorrhagic stroke). Symptoms vary depending on which part of the brain is being affected, but commonly referenced symptoms are a sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body or face, and the inability to speak clearly or find words. Any kind of sudden change in a person's sensory or physical abilities is cause for alarm, as well as severe, splitting headache. Diagnosis and management are medical emergencies, as time from stroke onset to stroke treatment can have significant impact on recovery. Patients are usually given a host of imaging tests, such as CT scan, MRI, and angiogram (xray of the blood vessels). If the stroke is caught early and is being cause by a blood clot, there are medications that can be given to quickly dissolve the clot. Hemorrhagic strokes often need brain surgery to stop bleeding. In most cases, stroke causes significant disability and needs intense rehabilitation to regain lost function from the damaged brain. Patients can avoid stroke risk factors by managing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy, low fat diet.

The study is published in Neurology

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Review Date: 
March 15, 2011
Last Updated:
March 15, 2011