Study: Older Women Have Worse Quality of Life After Having a Stroke

Dorian Martin Health Guide

    When going through the menopausal transition, women often take stock and try to make plans about the quality of life they want for the future?  However, all of those plans may be quickly dashed if you suffer a stroke.

    That’s because new research suggests that women especially often have a really difficult time in the aftermath of a stroke. This study out of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center involved 1,370 people between the ages of 56 and 77 who had suffered a stroke. Researchers assessed the participants’ quality of life twice after the stroke – at the three-month mark and the year mark. The assessment evaluated the person’s mobility, self-care, everyday activities, pain and depression/anxiety.

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    The researchers’ analysis found that women were more likely than men to report issues with mobility, pain/discomfort, anxiety and depression. These differences in the sexes’ experiences were more pronounced over the age of 75. The researchers also found that women still had a lower quality of life at the one-year mark.

    So it’s really important to take stroke prevention seriously,  especially during the menopausal transition because the body goes through a number of changes that can up your risk. But before we talk about prevention, let’s define what strokes are.

    It turns out there are two types of strokes. Ischemic stroke – which is the most common type– occurs when something obstructs the blood vessel that is supplying blood to the brain. This type of stroke involves atherosclerosis, which is the development of fatty deposits that are along the vessel walls. These deposits can result in two forms of blockage. The first form is cerebral thrombosis, which involves a blood clot that develops in the blood vessel’s clogged portion. The second form of blockage is cerebral embolism, which involves a blood clot that forms in another location. A portion of this blood clot breaks free and then travels through the bloodstream until it gets caught in a small vessel. An embolism also can be caused by an irregular heartbeat, which encourages clots to form and dislodge.

    The second type of stroke is the transient ischemic attack (TIA). This type of stroke is a warning stroke. It is caused by a temporary blockage that lasts less than five minutes. This type of stroke often doesn’t cause permanent injury.  However, about 33 percent of people who experience a TIA will end up having a stroke within a year.

    So let’s move on to prevention. Harvard Medical School recommends eight prevention steps:

    • Lower your blood pressure
    • Lose weight.
    • Get more exercise.
    • Drink alcohol in moderation.
    • Take a baby aspirin.
    • Treat atrial fibrillation.
    • Treat diabetes.
    • Quit smoking.

    Exercise obviously cuts through several of these recommendations (losing weight, lowering blood pressure and treating diabetes and atrial fibrillation), besides being listed as one of the steps. You should aim to walk at last three hours weekly, which has been shown to reduce stroke list. One way to get this amount of exercise is by participating in 30 consecutive minutes of physical activity daily. If you can’t get that amount of time blocked off in your schedule, break it down into smaller chunks – 10 or 15 minutes -- and scatter your exercise throughout the day.

  • Interestingly, vitamins don’t make the Harvard list. A 2007 longitudinal study of 8,000 women looked at whether vitamin C, vitamin E and antioxidants reduced the risk of stroke. The women were assigned to groups. One group was asked to take a single vitamin while another group took a combination.  A third group was given a placebo for nine years. It turns out that the supplements didn’t make any difference in preventing heart disease. However other research studies have found that eating a diet that’s rich in produce (which contains antioxidants) helped to decrease the risk of stroke and other heart problems.

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    Therefore, the best way to prevent stroke is to focus on lifestyle choices, especially diet and exercise. Making good choices in these areas can help you live a long, stroke-free life!

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    American Heart Association. (2013). Ischemic strokes (clots).

    American Heart Association. (2013). Menopause and heart disease.

    American Heart Association. (2013). TIA (transient ischemic attack).

    Bord, S. (2007). Study: Vitamins no magic bullet for heart health. ABC News.

    Harvard Medical School. (2013). 8 things you can do to prevent a stroke.

    Wake Forest Baptist Medical School. (2014). Women fare worse than men following stroke.

Published On: February 25, 2014