Monday, May 19, 2014

Should Stroke Survivors Get Evaluation Before Driving?

A stroke is a condition in which the brain cells suddenly die as a result of oxygen deficiency. It can be caused by an obstruction in the blood flow (known as ischemic stroke) or the rupture of an artery (called hemorrhagic stroke) that feeds the brain.

Patients with stroke might suddenly lose the ability to speak, think, see and control their body. A serious stroke condition can even cause a person’s life. Yet according to a study, stroke survivors often resume driving without being formally evaluated.

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina revealed that 5.6 percent of stroke survivors had received a formal driving evaluation and 51.2 percent returned to driving, and many of them just a month after suffering a stroke. The findings, after their survey of 162 stroke survivors in South Carolina for a year, on February 13, 2014 at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference held between February 12 and 14 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Participants in the survey had experienced various degrees of stroke, ranging from mild to severe. Many physical and mental skills related to driving competence can be affected by stroke, including vision, muscle strength, dexterity and attention span. Patients whose speech has been impaired often could not read properly that can affect their ability to interpret road signs.

Among those who drove, 31 percent reported that their strokes had some effect on basic activities of daily living like feeding, bathing and dressing themselves, and 11 percent reported that stroke had great effect.

Of those who reported greatly reduced ability to perform daily activities, 16.4 percent were back to driving, with only 3.6 percent having been formally evaluated. On the other had, 35.4 percent of those who had a full recovery in daily activities self-imposed driving limitations. 6.5 percent of this group of people had been formally evaluated for a return to driving. Self-imposed driving limitations means driving close to home or only to church or the grocery stores.

Nevertheless, researchers noted one interesting finding. For those who reported the stroke had no effect on their ability to perform daily living activities, almost 46 percent decided to limit their driving. While researchers had no clue about such reaction, they suspected that these patients might worry what could happen if they do have a second stroke. 

Being a leading cause of death in the United States, stroke affected nearly 800,000 people in the United States each year, and one-quarter of these stroke patients have had a previous stroke.

It is possible to prevent stroke if one can adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes identifying and controlling blood pressure, not smoking, lowering cholesterol, sodium and fat intake, limiting alcohol consumption, managing stress, doing more physical activities and following a healthy diet. In fact, doing all these can as well help prevent the number killer in the world, heart disease. 

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