Background and purpose: Stroke survivors are at risk of developing comorbidities that further reduce their quality of life. The purpose of this study was to determine the risk of developing a secondary health problem after stroke.
Methods: We performed a case-control analysis using 6 biennial interview waves (1998 to 2008) of the Health and Retirement Study. We compared 631 noninstitutionalized individuals who had a single stroke with 631 control subjects matched for age, gender, and interview wave. We studied sleep problems, urinary incontinence, motor impairment, falls, and memory deficits among the 2 groups.
Results: Stroke survivors frequently developed new or worsened motor impairment (33%), sleep problems (up to 33%), falls (30%), urinary incontinence (19%), and memory deficits (9%). As compared with control subjects, the risk of developing a secondary health problem was highest for memory deficits (OR, 2.45; 95% CI, 1.34 to 4.46) followed by urinary incontinence (OR, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.31 to 2.66), motor impairment (OR, 1.61; 95% CI, 1.16 to 2.24), falls (OR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.12 to 2.0), and sleep disturbances (OR, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.09 to 2.03). In contrast, stroke survivors were not more likely to injure themselves during a fall (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 0.72 to 1.79). After adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors, social status, psychiatric symptoms, and pain, the risks of falling or developing sleep problems were not different from the control subjects.
Conclusions: The risk of developing a secondary health problem that can impact daily life is markedly increased after stroke. A better understanding of frequencies and risks for secondary health problems after stroke is necessary for designing better preventive and rehabilitation strategies.