Saskatchewan researcher focuses on nutrition in stroke rehab

Watch above: researcher focuses on nutrition in rehab of stroke patients

SASKATOON – A University of Saskatchewan (U of S) researcher believes that practitioners need to focus more on nutrition in the rehabilitation process of stroke patients.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on recognizing signs of stroke really fast and then getting that patient to medical care really quickly and treating them quickly,” said Phyllis Paterson, a U of S stroke researcher.

“The part that I’ve seen missing from my field is that nutrition hasn’t really followed in step with that.”

A stroke occurs when there is a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain due to either a lack of blood flow or a hemorrhage.

Paterson has been conducting stroke studies since 1998 and believes that nutrition can complement other rehabilitation techniques and exercises.

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“What our work’s been showing is that the brain responds to the nutritional state, so our work suggests that you need optimal nutrition to support the best brain recovery,” said Paterson, who joined the U of S in 1989.

While healthy habits are the same for those who have or have not had a stroke, Paterson is concerned with finding innovative ways to get that nutrition to a patient who may not be able to physically eat.

“Often times it means providing a puree diet if the patient can’t swallow, it could be a tube feeding in the hospital to help patients and then as they recover they can start to eat again,” she said.

“It needs someone to pay attention on regular basis.”

Recovering stroke patient Lee Cayer remembers having trouble eating during the years after she had a stroke in 2005.

“I still had, up until a few years ago, several spots in my mouth and lip that were still numb,” said Cayer, who is a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“It was almost like being little spots from the dentist so I had to be careful that I wasn’t biting my face.”

Paterson’s research is funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, who promote research across the country.

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“[Paterson’s] research is quite novel; we often think of nutrition as something that helps us prevent disease, but her research is really helping us understand how important nutrition is to help promote recovery of disease as well.”

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