Optimism reduces stroke severity

Stroke survivors who are optimistic about their recovery demonstrate lower levels of inflammation and physical disability than their less-cheerful counterparts, researchers reported at the Nursing Symposium of the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles this month.

Study lead Yun-Ju Lai, PhD, MS, RN, a postdoctoral fellow in the neurology department at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and colleagues conducted their small-scale, 49-patient pilot study to determine whether something as simple as a mood shift could boost stroke patients’ odds of a successful recovery. Optimism has been linked to lower inflammation levels and improved health outcomes in the past, but those studies were conducted in a general population of medical patients, not stroke survivors.

Lai et al. analyzed data collected from a repository of neurological diseases, considering outcomes of optimism levels from the revised Life Orientation Test, stroke severity as measured by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, and levels of inflammatory markers including interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha and C-reactive protein.

The team reported that, as patients’ optimism levels climbed, their stroke severity decreased, even when considering other variables. Interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein also decreased with increasing optimism, though tumor necrosis factor alpha did not.

“Our results suggest that optimistic people have a better disease outcome, thus boosting morale may be an ideal way to improve mental health and recovery after a stroke,” Lai said in a release.

“Patients and their families should know the importance of a positive environment that could benefit the patient. Mental health does affect recovery after a stroke.”

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