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Nine research teams changing the face of stroke care

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Here, SR Times takes a look at nine university research teams who are changing the face of stroke care and helping to give a better understanding of the lasting effects stroke can cause.

1. University of Galway

Sleep disruption

Researchers at the University of Galway have demonstrated that sleep disruptions that build towards overall poor sleep quality can increase a persons risk of stroke.

By using data from the INTERSTROKE study, this research was also able to show that too much sleep can also increase stroke risk.

Study author, Christine McCarthy, says: “Having more than five of these [sleep depriving] symptoms may lead to five times the risk of stroke compared to those who do not have any sleep problems.”

Depression increases stroke risk

Another study from the University of Galway shows that individuals with depressive symptoms are at a greater risk of stroke than those who do not. 

Again, using data from the INTERSTROKE study, researchers at the university concluded that the more depressive symptoms an individual has, the greater their risk of stroke, with those reporting they had five or more depressive symptoms having a 54 per cent higher stroke risk than those with no symptoms of depression.

Study author, Robert P. Murphy, says: “Our results show that symptoms of depression can have an impact on mental health, but also increase the risk of stroke. Physicians should be looking for these symptoms of depression and can use this information to help guide health initiatives focused on stroke prevention.”

2. UTHealth Houston 

Teleheath care 

As part of their research into telehealth care has for stroke patients, first author Anjail Sharrief and other researchers demonstrated that telehealth care provided benefits for a range of stroke complications, such as impaired gait, vision and cognition, as well as for certain social departments of health, including economic instability, geographic location, and limited social support.

Sharrief and her research team also provided recommendations into accommodating stroke survivors with limited internet access and digital literacy. Sharrief states: “Several of the listed recommendation have shown promise for improving telehealth access and utilisation in other chronic disease populations.”

3. University of Melbourne

Rate of cognitive decline after stroke

Researchers at the University of Melbourne demonstrated that strokes can lead to ongoing changes to the brain which can continue for multiple years after the strokes occurrence.

They were also able to demonstrate that the white matter in the brain of a stroke survivor declined quicker than the regular population.

White matter is responsible for the fast transfer of information between different regions of our brain, meaning any damage caused by a cardiovascular event such as stroke can impact our cognitive abilities.

4. University of Michigan

Language and stroke recovery

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that the language we speak may play a vital part towards how we recover from a stroke.

Their study that focused on Mexican American individuals that had a stroke, found that those who only spoke Spanish showed to have worse lasting neurological effects after stroke than those who only spoke English and bilingual stroke survivors.

Study author, Lewis B. Morgenstern of the University of Michigan, says: “Our study found that Mexican American people who spoke only Spanish had worse neurologic outcomes three months after having a stroke than Mexican American people who spoke only English or were bilingual.

5. University of Alabama

500 extra steps

This study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama was able to demonstrate that by walking an extra 500 steps per day, you could reduce your stroke risk by 14 per cent.

Lead researcher of the study, Erin E. Dooley, ph.D, says: “It’s important to maintain physical activity as we age, however, daily step goals should also be attainable. We were surprised to find that every additional quarter of a mile, or 500 steps, of walking had such a strong benefit to heart health.”

6. Duke University

Does where you live change your chances of stroke survival?

Researchers at Duke University have shown that those who live in disadvantaged neighbourhoods had a 23 per cent higher risk of dying within one month post-stroke than those who live in advantaged neighbourhoods.

Study author Bradley G. Hammill, says:  “Decreased access to health care and healthy living resources available in more disadvantaged neighbourhoods, as well as increased exposure to unfavourable neighbourhood conditions such as heavy metals, pesticides and noise pollution could decrease overall health for people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and contribute to this increased risk of death.

“Health systems could use the results of our study to implement interventions to improve outcomes and health equity for people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.”

7. University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf

Thrombectomy safe to use in narrow vessels

Thrombectomy is already referred to by many stroke professionals as the ‘miracle treatment’ and now researchers at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf have been able to demonstrate that thrombectomy is a safe and technically feasible option for use in narrow vessels.

Study lead author, Dr Lukas Meyer, says: “The overall results of the study are consistent with a growing body of literature suggesting that thrombectomy may have a role in the treatment of this type of stroke.”

8. University of Hong Kong

Statins lower atrial fibrillation patients risk of stroke

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong were able to demonstrate that by taking statins, patients with atrial fibrillation could lower their risk of stroke.

Their study found that during an average follow up of five years, statin users had a significantly lower risk of all primary outcomes, which were defined as the combined endpoint of ischaemic stroke or systemic embolism; haemorrhagic stroke; and transient ischaemic attack, than those who did not take statins.

9. Harvard Medical School

1 in 5 stroke survivors have irregular heart rhythms

This research conducted at Harvard Medical School was able to show that irregular heart rhythms were detected in close to 1 in 5 individuals who had survived an ischaemic stroke caused by atherosclerosis.

This study included 492 participants who had an ischaemic stroke caused by a clot that formed in a diseased artery, instead of one originating in the heart, and who had no diagnosis of atrial fibrillation.

On the study’s findings, lead study author, Lee Schwamm, says: “We found that the rate of atrial fibrillation continued to increase over the course of the three years, therefore, it’s not just a short-lived event and self-resolving related to the initial stroke.

“Fibrillation is common in these patients. Relying on routine monitoring strategies is not sufficient and neither is placing a 30-day continuous monitor on the patient. Even if fibrillation is ruled out in the first 30 days, most of the cases are missed — because, as we found, more than 80% of the episodes are first detected more than 30 days after the stroke.”

For the latest on stroke studies around the world make sure to check out our research section.

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