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Cognitive problems post-stroke linked to fatigue

Patients with poorer memory and concentration three months after stroke have a higher risk of being fatigued at 12 months, study reveals

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Stroke patients with cognitive and emotional problems tend to experience fatigue more often and sleep more during the day, according to a new study.

Research has revealed that patients who report poorer memory and concentration three months after stroke have a higher risk of being fatigued at 12 months. The same applies to those who experience anxiety and depressive symptoms at three months. 

The study, from NTNU, highlights the importance of considering the impact of fatigue and the increased need for sleep following a stroke. 

Cognitive and emotional problems following a stroke are often not detected in routine follow-up appointments, but can be central in the development of the loneliness and isolation many survivors go on to experience. 

Recent research revealed that almost three quarters – 74 per cent – of stroke survivors experience tiredness and fatigue since having a stroke, which has impacted their ability and desire to socialise and take part in hobbies. 

“Both cognitive and emotional problems are common after a stroke. Our results show the importance of following up on these complaints in the subacute phase after the stroke,” say the study authors.

“We can reduce the risk of increased fatigue and need for sleep in the long term if we manage to identify and treat stroke patients who struggle cognitively and emotionally.”

The research used data from NORSPOT, a study that was carried out at Akershus University Hospital between 2012 and 2013. 

In that study, stroke patients answered questionnaires three and 12 months after their stroke. The patient sample had relatively mild strokes and had no known cognitive or emotional challenges before the stroke.

In Norway, around 9,000 people are admitted to hospitals each year with stroke, and around half feel exhausted afterwards, the research showed. 

“Cognitive and emotional complaints are thus both important factors for increased daytime sleep and fatigue after a stroke,” say the research team, which brought together the Vascular Diseases Research Group (VaD) at NTNU and the Department for Health Service Research (HØKH) at Akershus University Hospital.

“This finding was also evident when we took into account other factors such as age, sex, the severity of the stroke and quality of sleep at night, as well as their relationship to each other over time.”

Given the lack of emphasis on the ‘unseen’ impact of stroke on survivors, more research is needed to help improve understanding further, say the researchers. 

“We therefore hope to see more research undertaken in this field, as it can lead to improved diagnostics and treatment of patients in the long term,” they add. 

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