Stroke and Fear of Recurrence

The fear of another stroke is certainly understandable; each year, approximately 25% of strokes are recurrent strokes. Certain conditions, including carotid artery blockage, hardening of the arteries of the brain, and untreated atrial fibrillation, have a higher risk of recurrent stroke. Having surgery and receiving anesthesia are also associated with a higher risk of stroke.

Stroke and anxiety

There is a 25-35% risk of a second stroke in the first 4-5 years after the first one and a 40-45% risk more than five years after the first stroke. While concern for another stroke is reasonable, general anxiety is a common condition post-stroke, which can further increase fears.

A study of 194 survivors of ischemic stroke found that 32% of women and 21% of men reported moderate to severe anxiety during follow-up visits. Those who were experiencing anxiety were more likely to be single, widowed, or divorced than those not experiencing anxiety, which suggests that the presence of a loving companion can help to allay fears.

Biological changes can contribute to the development of anxiety, and a history of anxiety or depression is a major factor. But the knowledge that stroke recurrence is so common and the fear that it could happen to you can cause debilitating emotional trauma.

Coping mechanisms

People will often develop habits to check themselves to make sure they aren’t having a stroke, which can become almost compulsive: going through the FAST protocol in one’s head (face droop, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911); raising the arm and waving at no one just to make sure it’s working; asking one’s name, social security number, and password just to make sure; looking in the mirror for signs of sagging.

Some people have vivid nightmares of another stroke and wake up so upset that they feel they really had one. People limit their movements, avoiding going out anywhere or even going for a walk, for fear that they might have another stroke and wouldn’t be in a good place to get help quickly.

This focus on fear can leave a person paralyzed and unable to move forward in the healing process. It can create such stress that there is the risk of it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Overcoming fear

This is why we at Neuralert are working so hard to provide those at risk of stroke with an early warning system and peace of mind so that they can stop focusing on fear and focus on healing and health. Our stroke monitor system provides users with the confidence that they are being monitored by a medical team, even while they sleep, to make sure another stroke is not on the way.

It’s also important for stroke patients to decrease their risk of a second stroke by eliminating as much as possible the lifestyle factors that contributed to the first stroke. That includes obesity, smoking and substance abuse, excessive alcohol use, poor diet, poor sleep habits, and stressful living conditions or jobs. Health conditions that contribute to stroke include diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Studies show that by addressing these issues, through a good diet, an exercise program (approved by your doctor), and appropriate medications, the stroke risk significantly decreases.

Knowing that you can take some control in decreasing your risk of another stroke can help to decrease fear. When anxiety about another stroke raises its ugly head, focus on something fun or creative to get your mind off of the anxiety: call a friend, paint a picture, exercise, or cook a really healthy meal.

By following the advice of your doctors and making necessary changes in your habits and health, you can significantly lower your risks. Stay tuned for when the Neuralert bands are available to consumers, as they will give you a medical team that is watching out 24/7 for any signs of stroke.

Surprisingly, when a stroke patient is in a hospital or rehabilitation center recovering, the likelihood of symptoms going undetected is higher than you would think. Stroke symptoms including drooping and asymmetrical movements are harder to detect when a patient is lying in a hospital bed. This is why we are working hard to develop the Neuarlert wristband. With this technology, stroke patients will be able to rest a little easier knowing that symptoms will be detected as soon as possible.

Let your doctor know you are interested in Neuralert and partner with medical professionals to ensure that symptoms of stroke can be detected ASAP.