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Stroke

True impact of stroke underestimated, new research reveals

The Stroke Association study shows the lack of knowledge of the levels of disability it can cause, or that it is the UK’s fourth biggest killer

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More than half of people in the UK do not know stroke is the fourth biggest killer in Britain, with a fifth of people underestimating its impact, new research has revealed.

A new study from the Stroke Association reveals 51 per cent did not realise how deadly stroke can be, and 18 per cent did not know it is the UK’s fifth biggest cause of disability. 

In fact, two thirds of the 1.3million stroke survivors in the UK find themselves living with a disability, with over 50 per cent dependent on others for every day activities. 

The research also found that people do not understand the true long term damage a stroke can cause:

  • More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of people are unaware that fatigue is a common hidden effect of stroke
  • More than two thirds (67 per cent) don’t realise that stroke can cause depression and anxiety
  • Around a third of people (32 per cent) don’t know that communication difficulties are common after stroke
  • Almost three quarters of people (74 per cent) don’t know that stroke can affect hearing
  • Two thirds (66 per cent) are unaware that stroke survivors can experience vision problems.

Despite the devastating impact of stroke, stroke research remains underfunded and receives far less funding than other health conditions that have similar life-long effects.

For personal trainer Glen Eastick, his stroke happened when he was just 33 and a new father in July 2020, during the pandemic period when hospital visits for stroke decreased significantly.

Glen’s symptoms started while he was preparing his lunch. 

“I briefly lost the use of my arm for about ten seconds and dribbled a bit but then continued making lunch,” said Glen.

“Then when I went into my next online session I realised I couldn’t talk. Nothing was coming out except the odd word. My client was saying ‘Are you ok?’

“My girlfriend Bex was out on a walk with our six-week-old baby Evie and as soon as she came back she realised something was wrong as I was struggling to talk. She called the ambulance and I was rushed into hospital.”

Ironically, the stroke specialty doctor waiting to treat Glen at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, was James Beckett who is also one of his personal fitness clients.

A scan confirmed that Glen had had a stroke and he was thrombolysed – given special drugs to dissolve the clot which was blocking the blood supply and killing cells in his brain.

Thanks to the prompt action by Bex who spotted the “FAST” stroke symptoms, the skills of hospital staff and his own determination, Glen has made a good recovery.

Now Glen is backing the Stroke Association’s call for more research into stroke.

Juliet Bouverie, chief executive of the Stroke Association, said: “Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and while it changes lives in an instant, the brain can adapt and rebuild after stroke. 

“That’s why research means everything to our nation’s 1.3 million stroke survivors and their families, because of the life-changing impact it could have on their future.

“Our pioneering research has been at the centre of major breakthroughs that have saved lives and sparked innovation in stroke care and treatment. 

“From laying the foundations for the Act FAST campaign, one of the most successful public health awareness campaigns in England, to funding early research into the emergency stroke treatment thrombectomy, many patients have been spared the most devastating effects of stroke as a result of our research.

“Despite stroke still being the fourth biggest killer in the UK, research has helped to more than halve the rate of deaths from stroke over the last three decades. It’s absolutely crucial that we continue this progress, but we can’t do this without vital funding.”

Tech

GripAble praised by MP

Stephen Hammond MP hails its innovation and “extraordinary” success to date and potential

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The progress of GripAble has been hailed as “extraordinary” by its local MP, who praised its innovation and ongoing progress in transforming neurorehab and wider healthcare.

GripAble, the UK technology company digitising upper limb rehabilitation from hospital to home, welcomed Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, to its international sales and distribution centre.

Mr Hammond visited GripAble’s office in Wimbledon to learn how private equity investment has helped it to scale its industry-leading data platform and therapy services and expand GripAble into Europe and the US, as well as how an international company has successfully stemmed from the local business community. 

During his visit, the MP met the GripAble team and listened to a presentation by GripAble co-founder and CEO Dr Paul Rinne, who shared the background to GripAble and its growth story to date, as well as plans and ambitions for the future.

Prior to becoming an MP, Stephen Hammond worked for a leading fund management company and multiple investment banks, so was particularly interested in the funding GripAble has received to date, including the recent close of its $11m funding round. 

With more than 8,000 individuals having already used the platform, GripAble has established itself as a leading technology in the remote-rehab space in the UK, recording 100,000 activity sessions and 27 million movement repetitions across its users.

Stephen Hammond MP said: “GripAble proves that innovative companies of the future that are building products that will transform healthcare can be based anywhere, but I’m particularly proud that GripAble has started out in Wimbledon. 

“It’s been wonderful to see the development of the company over the last two years since first meeting Paul, and I’m sure the developments over the next three years will be equally extraordinary, particularly with the backing of private equity investment.”

Dr Rinne said: “Today’s visit was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase GripAble’s story and vision to a Member of Parliament and explain how private equity investment can help UK-based entrepreneurs take ideas from seed stage through to global scaling, and compete on the international stage. 

“The investment we have received will accelerate GripAble’s journey to delivering end-to-end patient rehabilitation and connecting millions to their own personal home-based clinic. 

“With the backing of investors such as IP Group and Parkwalk, we will benefit from a wealth of insight and experience that will support us in growing our platform in the US and expanding our clinical and commercial evidence base. 

“It is great to be able to work with such supportive investors that make our lives so much easier.”

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Stroke

Online intervention ‘can improve stroke survivors’ quality of life’

Accessible, interactive and tailored support can deliver significant health benefits, a new study reveals

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Online support for adult stroke survivors that provides accessible, interactive and tailored interventions is associated with better health-related quality of life, new research has revealed. 

Stroke can lead to serious physical and cognitive disability, with lifestyle and health behaviours including smoking and drinking, physical activity, diet and depression all being important in survivors’ quality of life. 

Now, a new study has revealed that online programmes which support stroke survivors with such factors can deliver great benefits. 

It builds further on existing research into other forms of remote rehab to show how impactful online and virtual support can be. 

“Online platforms are a viable and impactful model to address the health information needs and behaviour change challenges of stroke survivors,” says Dr Ashleigh Guillaumier, from the University of Newcastle.

Led by Dr Guillaumier, and senior author Professor Billie Bonevski from Flinders University, the study undertook a randomised control trial to evaluate the online program Prevent 2nd Stroke” (P2S), which encourages users to set goals and monitor progress across various health risk areas.

399 adult stroke survivors with an average age of 66 were asked to complete a telephone survey, following which they were randomly assigned to receive either a list of generic health information websites or 12 weeks of access to the P2S online program. 

The group with P2S access also received additional text messages encouraging use of the program.

Nearly all participants then completed a six month follow-up survey, with the researchers finding those who received P2S access had a higher health-related quality of life (HRQOL) score than those who received the generic health information.

Compared to those in the control group, significantly higher proportions of people in the group who received access to P2S also reported having no problems with personal care and an ability to participate in their usual daily activities.

The authors say that while most of the participants were generally “well” stroke survivors, with little to no disability, limiting the scope of the study, it still points to the benefits of the online program.

“This paper is the culmination of eight years of research, starting with a small grant from the National Stroke Foundation that funded the development of the online program which was co-developed with consumers and key stakeholders,” added Professor Bonevski.

“The next step for Prevent Second Stroke is to scale up its implementation to ensure it reaches and benefits the highest number of people who have experienced a stroke, including those with greater stroke-related disability.”

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Stroke

Different stroke symptoms ‘can make diagnosis harder in women’

Women are more likely to have more generalised symptoms, like confusion and weakness, new research reveals

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Although the known early signs of a stroke such as problems with movement and speech occur in both women and men, women are more likely to have more generalised symptoms, like confusion and weakness, new research has found. 

Stroke occurs when there is a sudden loss of blood supply to a localised area of the brain and is the second major cause of disability globally. Women experience worse post-stroke disability and are more than three times as likely to require long-term hospital or rehab treatment after a stroke than men.

Dr Sultana Shajahan, lead author of the new study from The George Institute for Global Health, said that early diagnosis is vital in the management of acute stroke, but previous studies have shown that women are more likely to experience delays, resulting in worse outcomes.

But data remains too limited to be able to say whether these differences are resulting in delays to diagnosis or a misdiagnosis in women.

“One of the possible reasons for a delay could be sex differences in stroke symptoms when first presenting to a healthcare professional, but there is a limited number of studies that have analysed these sex differences,” she said.

To examine this more closely, George Institute researchers analysed data on a total of 36,636 people diagnosed with stroke from 21 studies that were conducted mostly in the United States or Europe, with results published between 2002 and 2020.

Between 45 and 55 per cent of participants in most studies were women, and they were generally older than men when presenting with stroke (an average age of 62 to 79 years versus 58 to 70 years for men).

The researchers found that women had a higher risk than men of presenting with some more generalised symptoms not associated with a specific area of the brain such as confusion, fatigue, weakness, headache, loss of consciousness and mental status change.

Women also had a lower risk of some symptoms that are linked to particular parts of the brain, such as difficulty speaking, changes to their ability to walk in the usual way and being unsteady on their feet.

“We know that women who experience stroke are more likely than men to initially be given a non-stroke diagnosis, and this could be because they don’t always display what could be considered the ‘classic’ symptoms of stroke as often as men do,” said Dr Shajahan.

“While there wasn’t enough data available to see whether these differences do actually result to delays in or missed diagnosis, greater awareness of sex differences in symptom presentation amongst healthcare providers involved in the initial evaluation of acute stroke would be helpful.”

The researchers called for further epidemiological studies using consistent data collection methods that link symptoms to missed or delayed diagnosis outcomes, to improve the management of stoke for both women and men.

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