We all know that it’s important to eat a balanced diet. Studies indicate that a ‘Mediterranean diet’ high in unsaturated fat and low in red meat and saturated fat can reduce the risk of stroke complications (including the risk of recurrent stroke), but it seems it might not just be what you eat that is important. It might also have something to do with how much you eat.
It comes down to energy intake and the need to consume as much as your body requires to function effectively. Too much over time is one thing. But what if you consume too little energy at specific points of your recovery? It could seriously affect your body’s ability to fight infection and slow your recovery.
The highs and lows of post-stroke nutrition
A team of researchers in Japan have investigated just how energy intake can affect activities of daily living (a key measure of post-stroke recovery) and the onset of complications. They looked at a group of hospitalized elderly patients in the acute phase of stroke.
At one week after a stroke, 117 of the 192 patients studied had an ‘energy shortage’. This indicates that their intake was insufficient to meet basic bodily requirements. In real terms, this manifested as an increase in the rates of pneumonia (almost 7% higher in energy-short patients) and urinary tract infections (3% higher in energy-short patients), and fewer improvements in functional independence based on measures of motor and cognitive functions.
Watch what you eat. But also watch this space…
This study highlights the importance of nutrition in the early days of recovery. However, further studies could determine whether energy intake correlates to outcomes at later stages of recovery. At one month post-stroke, for example, when patients have a greater degree of control over their diet. So while it certainly pays to watch what you eat whatever your stage of recovery, it might also pay to watch Strokemark for further updates.
The lead author of the original article is Yoji Kokura, Department of Clinical Nutrition, Keiju Medical Center and Noto Liaison Council for Cerebral Stroke, Nanao City, Japan.