Stroke Can Curb Life Quality

Stroke and transient ischemic attack can impact quality of life

(RxWiki News) A stroke can impair a person's ability to perform daily functions, which may affect their quality of life. Improving quality of life after a stroke has been a focus of healthcare providers.

While spotlighting the need for more efforts to prevent stroke and improve stroke treatment, a new study has concluded that the disease may significantly reduce stroke patients' long-term quality of life.

"Know the facts about stroke prevention."

Peter M. Rothwell, FMedSci, of John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, United Kingdom, was the study's lead author.

From 2002 through 2012, the study recruited and then followed a total of 748 residents of the United Kingdom who had strokes of varying degrees of severity and 440 UK residents who experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

TIA is a "mini-stroke" that has the same symptoms of an actual stroke but does no permanent physical damage. Mini-strokes, which last less than 24 hours then disappear, often forewarn of a full stroke in the future.

Men accounted for 370 of the study's stroke patient participants and 194 of the TIA patients. The stroke patients' average age was 75, and TIA patients' average age was 73.

Rothwell and his team of researchers had study participants answer questionnaires that measured their quality of life, including, for example, their ability to complete certain routine, daily tasks and to generally be involved in everyday events. Their responses to those questions ranged from "worse than death" to "perfect health."

Stroke and mini-stroke patients' responses were compared to similar answers from individuals of the same ages who had not had a stroke or mini-stroke.

Based on those answers, these researchers determined that over a five-year period, stroke patients, on average, died almost two years earlier than those who had not experienced a stroke. Stroke patients also had roughly one less year of a what would be considered a reasonably high quality of life.

After combining those two figures, the researchers concluded that stroke patients saw their quality of life decrease by almost three years compared to the life quality of those who had not had a stroke.

More specifically, however, the reductions in quality of life depended on the amount of damage done by those strokes. People who had minor strokes lost 2.06 years in life quality. Those who had moderate strokes lost about 3.35 years in life quality. Those who experienced severe strokes lost 4.3 years in life quality, the researchers concluded.

Individuals who experienced TIAs had almost two fewer years of quality life than persons who had not had a TIA.

Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, these researchers wrote. Strokes occur when hardened arteries or other factors prevent proper blood flow to the brain. Signs of a stroke include numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs; severe headaches; trouble walking and speaking; confusion; and difficulty seeing. The symptoms appear suddenly.

Measures such as their quality-of-life gauge, the researchers added, are used to determine which of the latest medical treatments are the most cost effective.

This study's findings suggest that not much has changed since previous studies — chiefly one conducted during the 1990s — investigated stroke patients' quality of life, the researchers wrote.

"These results highlight the severe toll that stroke takes on millions of people every year," Rothwell said in a press statement.

"Our study should serve as a wake-up call that we need more funding and research for stroke treatments and secondary stroke prevention measures to improve quality of life in stroke survivors," he said.

This study was published online October 9 in Neurology.

Study funders were the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre Programme, Medical Research Council, Dunhill Medical Trust, Wellcome Trust and Stroke Association.

Several of the researchers previously received grants and awards from several of the study funders.

Review Date: 
October 9, 2013