Focus on Stroke
It’s estimated to cost the economy £8 billion per year in England. It causes more than 50 000 deaths every year in the UK and leaves hundreds of thousands more people disabled. A quarter of cases occur in people of working age. Stroke is a devastating and distressing condition that is only in recent years gaining the attention its severity, prevalence and costs merit.
May 2012 was the Stroke Association’s Action on Stroke Month. This got us thinking about the many types of stroke research currently going on, and the impact this has had on stroke treatment, prevention and understanding so far.
So, we assembled our Focus on Stroke series on this very blog, featuring articles, videos, real-life stories and more on this subject. The idea was to highlight the way that stroke has been seen historically in the UK and show how changes over the past couple of decades have transformed stroke from an almost inevitable consequence of ageing to an increasingly preventable, predictable and treatable condition.
Out of the dark
Stroke can have devastating and long-lasting impacts on the lives of patients and their relatives. Nic Fleming talks to leaders in the field to hear how this condition has finally begun to be recognised as the medical emergency it is.
Ten leading clinicians, researchers and other professionals working on stroke answer the question: What do you think has been the most significant advance or turning point in the field during your career so far?
Predicting and preventing stroke
There will be about 150 000 strokes in the UK in 2012, among a population of 62 million. Crude arithmetic suggests your chance of having a stroke this year is, therefore, 0.24 per cent. But a variety of factors can make us more – or less – likely to experience stroke. Is it possible to put a number on an individual’s risk? And if you found out you were at high risk, what could you do about it? Michael Regnier investigates.
Making a campaign out of a crisis
The Act FAST campaign, designed to boost awareness of stroke as a medical emergency, has generated some provocative imagery, not least the ‘burning brain’ seen in a series of TV and printed adverts. Chrissie Giles found out more about this campaign and others to educate people, both in and beyond the health service, about how to recognise and respond to stroke.
Wellcome image of the month: Ischaemia
This image of the month illustrates an experimental model of stroke, showing colour-coded blood flow through the brain of a rodent after arterial obstruction, or ischaemia, to give its medical term.
A geriatrician and stroke specialist by training, Professor Shah Ebrahim researches risk factors for cardiovascular disease and has a particular interest in prevention strategies. He splits his time between India and the UK, where he is Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Michael Regnier went to meet him.
Stroke is a desperate, time-critical emergency. While it’s happening (the ‘acute’ phase), nearly 2 million brain cells are dying every minute – disabling somebody in seconds. It doesn’t hurt, so people may not be aware they’re having a stroke until they suddenly realise they can’t speak, move, walk, talk or swallow. Penny Bailey looks at how stroke used to be treated and what has changed for patients today.
How stroke affects the brain
A stroke can cause debilitating brain damage, costing patients control of their limbs, their ability to use language and other cognitive skills. Moheb Costandi meets the researchers who are gaining a better understanding of the affected brain areas and how they work, with the aim of informing the development of new treatments to limit and overcome the effects of stroke.
The tangled knot of dementia and stroke
For decades, stroke and dementia were treated quite separately in the UK, both clinically and in research, despite both being diseases of the brain. Today, scientists and doctors are becoming ever more aware of the links between stroke and dementia. Michael Regnier asks Professor Rob Stewart whether stroke and dementia could be different manifestations of the same underlying disease.
Restructuring the brain
Mapping those compartments more precisely – and understanding how the tissue structure in each region allows us to do specific things – is a fundamental challenge for neuroscience. Penny Bailey finds out how scientists are meeting it.
Research in rehab
Helping someone to recover their ability to function in the world after a stroke has to be personalised because every stroke patient is left with a different set of abilities. It is not surprising, therefore, that those who do research into new techniques and practices for rehabilitation emphasise the importance of individual patients, as Michael Regnier found.
Walk with me (with video)
Michael Regnier meets ‘Bob’ – the machine that’s helping stroke patients and spinal cord injury victims learn to walk again.
What’s needed for a fitter future?
We asked a number of leading clinicians, researchers and other professionals working in stroke the question: With unlimited resources, what one change would you make today to transform the stroke field in ten years’ time?
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The loss of language
In this short film, we meet Tess and Michael, two people who suddenly found themselves robbed of the ability to talk following a stroke. Thanks to the brain’s remarkable ability to regain function, however, they have made significant progress and are helping scientists understand the neural pathways underlying language.
How video games aid stroke recovery
Video games frequently get a hard time in the media. Barry Gibb was afforded the opportunity to shine a light on the lesser-hyped world of videogames – that they can be used for tremendous good.
My story: patient case studies
Claire O’Kane was just 26 years old when she had a stroke. She and her mum, Ann, talk about their experiences, six years on.
Lesley, 63, suffered transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), or ‘mini-strokes’, before going on to have two major strokes. She talks about these events and the long-term impact they have had on her life.
Bharatbhai had his first stroke (an ischaemic stroke) whilst he was visiting family in India in early 2008. The blood clot was removed and he returned to the UK, where he suffered a second stroke (a haemorrhage).
For more information on stroke, visit the Stroke Association’s site or call its helpline on 0303 303 3100. If you or someone with you is suspected of having a stroke, call the emergency services immediately.