Even Minor Strokes May Take Years Off Life: Study
Prevention is crucial, neurologists agree
"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.