Story by: David Steen Martin; Reviewed by L. Samuel Handshoe, D.O. on January 5, 2024
Strokes don’t just happen to older people. They can happen at any age.
When a younger person has a stroke, it can upend their life as a romantic partner, as a parent and as a breadwinner.
A young stroke survivor may faces physical limitations they didn’t have before, which can affect their ability to work, to be intimate with a partner or to be as active as they’ve been in the past. This all affects their sense of who they are.
“In the blink of an eye, a stroke can turn a person’s identity inside out. The roles we filled that gave our lives meaning no longer look the same,” said L. Samuel Handshoe, D.O., a neurologist and stroke specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute.
Physical and emotional recovery from a stroke can continue for years, with the help of physical, occupational, speech and emotional therapists.
Get help with the day-to-day challenges of life after a stroke.
Norton Neuroscience Institute patient support is offered at no cost to Norton Healthcare patients and their families, thanks to the support of donations to the Norton Healthcare Foundation.
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“Even if it’s years later, you can ask your primary care provider for an order to be evaluated for physical, occupational, speech therapy or any other specialty therapy. You don’t have to be hospitalized to be referred for therapy,” Dr. Handshoe said.
In addition to the physical trauma, a stroke often results in anxiety, which can be expressed as lack of concentration, restlessness or anger, and depression, which can show up as fatigue, a sense of heaviness or lack of motivation.
A stroke survivor may look the same on the outside, but may be struggling and may be reluctant to ask family and friends for help.
If you’re recovering from a stroke, it’s important to seek emotional support by meeting with a therapist, by joining a support group or getting some other help. The Norton Neuroscience Resource Center has resources for stroke survivors and their families, including education on managing a stroke and support groups.
Having a stroke at a younger age is unexpected and adds a sense of uncertainty that wasn’t there before. If it happens to you, support can help you focus on your health going forward. Your family still needs your emotional support, even if other roles have changed during your recovery.
Recovering from a stroke can mean accepting limitations, or reframing them. Rather than self-isolating and shying away from social life, family and hobbies, it’s often possible to do things differently. Instead of running, walking may be possible. Instead of gardening, just getting outside can provide a similar enjoyment from nature.
Sexual dysfunction is common after a stroke. It’s important for stroke survivors to communicate honestly with their partners and, if necessary, consider redefining what intimacy and sexual satisfaction looks like.
Having one stroke puts you at greater risk for another stroke. If you’re a young stroke survivor, you can reduce risk factors by quitting smoking, being active, eating well, having regular health checkups with a health care provider and taking medications as needed for stroke risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
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