Who knew!!!!

Study: A Lengthy, Stable Marriage May Boost Stroke Survival

Posted by Amy Norton, HealthDay Reporter

Researchers found that among more than 2,300 stroke sufferers, those who’d been “continuously” married had a better chance of surviving—versus both lifelong singles and people who’d been divorced or widowed.

The long-term marrieds’ outlook was better even compared to people who’d gotten remarried after divorcing or losing a spouse.

The reasons for the findings aren’t completely clear, and the study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship. But researchers said the study highlights the potential importance of “social support” in stroke recovery.

“This implies that the support of a lifelong partner has benefits,” said Dr. Ralph Sacco, a professor of neurology at the University of Miami and a past president of the American Heart Association.
A spouse can give emotional support, he said, as well as help with day-to-day basics—such as eating a healthy diet and remembering to take medications.

“People sometimes consider it ‘nagging,’ but it can help,” said Sacco, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“What we don’t know,” he added, “is whether other forms of social support might have similar benefits.”

In a previous study, Sacco and his colleagues did find that older stroke patients who had friends generally fared better than those who were socially isolated.

But it’s not clear whether friendships directly aided people’s stroke recovery. And no one knows whether unmarried stroke patients would live longer if they joined a support group, for example.
Those are important questions, according to Matthew Dupre, one of the researchers on the new study.
It’s known that “social support” can help people stick with their medication regimens or change unhealthy habits, said Dupre, an associate professor of community and family medicine at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

So it’s possible that unmarried stroke patients could benefit from resources that connect them with other people, according to Dupre.

“More research is needed, though, to know the full implications of our findings, and to identify possible avenues of intervention,” he said.

The findings, reported Dec. 14 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, are based on 2,351 U.S. adults who’d suffered a stroke. Their health was followed for about five years after the stroke, on average.

During that time, 1,362 people died — leaving just under 1,000 survivors. Among those who survived, 42 percent were in a stable marriage with their first spouse. That compared with 31 percent among patients who died.

Overall, Dupre’s team found, lifelong singles were 71 percent more likely to die than stroke patients in a stable marriage.

Much of that disparity seemed to be explained by “psychosocial factors,” the researchers said — including depression symptoms and a lack of children or other close relationships.

It wouldn’t be surprising, Sacco said, if depression were a key reason that unmarried people tend to fare more poorly after a stroke.

“Depression is common after stroke, and it’s been shown to be a predictor of stroke outcomes,” he said. “Depression needs to be recognized and treated.”

Dr. Paul Wright, chief of neurology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., agreed.
He said stroke patients at his center are routinely screened for depression. But the new findings, he said, suggest that unmarried patients may need closer attention in general — including extra help with lifestyle changes that can improve their outlook.

“We may need to bring them in for follow-up earlier, and start monitoring them more closely,” Wright said.

Lifelong singles were not the only ones at higher risk in this study. People who’d been divorced or widowed were more likely to die after their stroke — particularly if they’d lost more than one marriage.
Patients who’d been divorced or widowed more than once were about 40 percent more likely to die than those in stable marriages. And those who were currently remarried fared no better.
Certain practical factors, such as income and access to health insurance, seemed to explain part of the risk — but not all of it.

“It may be that patients with a history of marital instability experienced more severe and debilitating strokes — and in turn have fewer economic resources and social support to use toward their recovery,” Dupre said.

For now, Sacco suggested that stroke survivors “reach out and interact with other people” if they feel isolated. Many hospitals have support groups, he said.

People could also try community or church organizations, or even online groups, Sacco said — though, he added, “we don’t know whether computer connections can replace face-to-face human connection.”
Wright agreed that unmarried stroke survivors should reach out for help. But in reality, he added, many do not — so their family members should be proactive.

“Be the ‘nudge’ who makes sure they’re taking care of themselves, even if they say they’re OK,” Wright said.

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

We are answering your questions…3

 

How is your marriage now?
Our marriage is good!  It is a good thing because we spend all day, every day together.  All the things that made our marriage good pre-stroke are the same things that make it good now.  We appreciate each other’s strengths, work ethic, sense of humor, and willingness to compromise.  We have created new routines that work for both of us, giving us some variety in our days.  We have found our New Normal and we have found peace.

If you could give your pre-stroke self any advice, what would it be?
Buy more disability insurance!!  The financial pressures of disability are not fun.  Fortunately we had some disability insurance—thank God.  Without it, we would have lost our home, I wouldn’t have been able to stay home and take care of Gordon or be there for the kids.  Our outcome would have been completely different, and not in a good way.  We don’t have much, but we have enough to provide a stable, relatively normal home environment.  What a blessing.

How has stroke changed your lives?
Every part of our lives changed because of the stroke.  Gordon’s active, successful, productive life as a sales consultant is over.  My life of being active and involved in the community is over.  The plans and vision we had for our future are gone.  Our resources are limited so our opportunities are limited.  It took time to make peace with these changes.  We all mourned the loss of the life we worked so hard to build.  However, our new life has its blessings:  we appreciate each day we have together, we don’t worry about the future, we are grateful for what we have.  It certainly is not the life we planned but it is a life still filled with joy, love, and meaning.

Why did Jill write Painful Blessing?
I wrote Painful Blessing for several specific reasons, none of which were that I was dying to be a published author.  Reason #1: acquired brain injury, such as stroke, is devastating, scary, and lonely.  We can’t be the only people to experience the crazy unpredictability brain injury brings, but it sure felt like it.  Reason #2: even after all these years, recovery is ongoing.  There have been no shortcuts, just relentless hard work.  Reason #3: We want to bring hope to others going through their own challenges.  We encourage people to examine their life’s foundations.  Are those foundations unshakeable?  Reason #4: to encourage people to persevere through their challenges.  Life will probably be different on the other side but that is ok.

What role did your Christian faith play in your story?
Our Christian faith is the sole reason we are a success story.  When Gordon was lost in the fog of his stroke and I was facing the terrible realities alone, only the knowledge that my loving Savior was carrying me kept me from stepping in front of a bus and making the whole thing end for me.  Well, Jesus and love for my children kept me away from a bus.  Gordon’s is a story of recovery, mine is a story of surrender.  When I gave up thinking I had control, fully surrendered to God, fully acknowledged His power, and fully put my life and our future in His hands, everything was better.  Trusting Him allows me to accept our new life and embrace each day as it comes.  He has never failed me.

What are your favorite audiences?
My favorite audiences ask questions and engage in wonderful discussion after we speak.  I love the interaction with those who are willing to share, question, and relate to our talk. Each audience listens from its own perspective:  medical professionals, business professionals, young people, old people, men, women, survivors, caregivers, and everyone else.  The questions and discussions reflect the personality of that audience.  Everybody experiences obstacles at some time in their lives and our story is really about overcoming obstacles.  Our time together is meaningful and interesting and we all leave the room with hope.  I love that.

Jill Viggiano