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Even Minor Strokes May Take Years Off Life: Study

Prevention is crucial, neurologists agree

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"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.

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