Our natural response to a stroke makes us worry about the obvious deficits left behind by the stroke, such as weakness in the arms and legs, difficulty speaking, or blurry vision. But should we be worried about less obvious deficits in body functions of which we are not normally aware?
The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that controls automatic body functions which are necessary for survival. Two of these important functions include the control of the heart rate and of the body’s blood pressure. Recent evidence suggests that stroke patients have an impaired autonomic control of these functions, especially when their stroke is on the right side of the brain.
This was found in a study published recently in the journal Neurology, in which the authors report that heart rate and blood pressure have abnormal fluctuations after a stroke, possibly placing stroke survivors at an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmias. Naturally, one can expect that if this is the case, cardiac arrhythmias can also place these patients at increased risk of repeat strokes.
Is this vicious cycle responsible for the increased risk of repeat stroke in stroke survivors?