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Stroke health centre

Strokes can affect quality of life years later

The effects of a stroke - and even a mini-stroke - can be long-lasting, with a person’s quality of life often still reduced five years later, a study shows.

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?

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A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. This can cause brain damage and sometimes death. A mini-stroke (also called a transient ischaemic attack or TIA) happens when the blood supply is blocked for only a short time. This means the brain usually has no lasting damage, and the symptoms go away. However, having a mini-stroke is a warning sign that you might have a stroke in the next few days or weeks.

Many people survive a stroke, but it can have lasting effects on their health and quality of life. Although mini-strokes don’t cause permanent brain damage, they can still lead to considerable anxiety and worry. However, not many studies have looked at people’s quality of life years later and considered this along with how long people survive after having a stroke or mini-stroke.

To help fill this gap, UK researchers looked at 748 people who had a stroke and 440 people who had a mini-stroke. Over the following five years, the people filled in questionnaires to rate their quality of life. The researchers then compared their ratings with those of 652 similar people who hadn’t had a stroke or mini-stroke.

What does the new study say?

People who had a stroke or mini-stroke had lower quality-of-life scores five years later, compared with people who hadn’t had any type of stroke. On a scale that ranged from -0.59 (the worst score) to 1 (the best), people who’d had a stroke scored 0.70, on average, compared with 0.79 for people who’d had a mini-stroke and 0.85 for people who hadn’t had any type of stroke.

The researchers used these findings to estimate how many quality years of life people had lost because of their stroke or mini-stroke. Out of a possible five years of perfect health, people who had a stroke had lost 2.79 years, on average, due to a reduced quality of life and an earlier death for some. For people who’d had a mini-stroke, the researchers estimated that they had lost 1.68 years.

How reliable is the research?

This was a good-quality study. The researchers tried to closely match people who had a mini-stroke or stroke with those who hadn’t, based on their age, sex, whether they were married, and whether they had certain health problems or a disability. This makes it more likely that people had a lower quality of life because of their stroke or mini-stroke rather than as a consequence of other things. However, we can’t be entirely certain, as there might have been something else about people who had a stroke or mini-stroke that lowered their quality of life that the researchers were not aware of.

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