man training his breathing with POWERbreathe

Many conditions may develop during the period after a stroke, and these are referred to as post-stroke symptoms. These are common conditions that may improve over time and with stroke rehabilitation.

According to the 2022 global stroke facts from the WHO (World Health Organisation), one in four people over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. This is why the World Stroke Organization raises awareness of the risk factors for this life-threatening medical condition, every year on World Stroke Day.

Stroke Prevention

Regardless of age, stroke can happen to anyone at any time. The Stroke Association encourages people to check their pulse for atrial fibrillation which is a cause of 1 in 5 strokes.

Warning signs can help prevent disability or death from a stroke. The acronym FAST helps us to remember the main signs to look out for.

Risk Factors For Stroke

The most common type of stroke is an ischaemic stroke. This occurs when blood flow and oxygen to the brain becomes blocked by a blood clot. It can happen to anyone but is more likely to occur as we get older. This is because, over time, the arteries get clogged up with fatty material, and become narrower and harder.

In addition to age, there are medical conditions that will increase the risk of stroke. And there are factors that you can control to reduce your risk of stroke. In fact, the following factors account for 82% to 90% of all strokes:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking

High blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for stroke. This is because it places extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and brain. What’s more, continuous high blood pressure increases the risk of other life-threatening conditions, such as heart attack and heart failure. But there are things that you can do to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, and therefore stroke.

Positive research from the University of Colorado shows that performing drug-free Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) with the POWERbreathe K3 Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) device, can work as well as medicine to reduce high blood pressure. Here we explain how you can lower blood pressure naturally with POWERbreathe IMST.

Lower Blood Pressure With POWERbreathe IMST

Post Stroke Symptoms

Such symptoms include physical conditions, cognitive impairment and how you feel emotionally. According to the British Heart Foundation, depending on how quickly you receive treatment, you may also experience:

  • Tiredness
  • Memory loss
  • Muscle weakness on one side of the body
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems communicating, such as finding it difficult to speak
What is a Stroke? British Heart Foundation

Stroke Rehabilitation

This will start while you are is still in the hospital. It will involve setting daily tasks, in conjunction with a multidisciplinary team, such as specialist stroke nurses, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and rehabilitation assistants. Such sessions may include helping you to re-learn skills, perhaps getting dressed with the use of one arm where physical impairment is an issue, and exercises. The type of rehabilitation will depend upon the severity of your symptoms. The intention of rehab is to help you regain as much independence as possible.

“As I recover from my stroke in July 2021, I am undergoing rehab to restore my ability to walk unaided again, reduce post-stroke fatigue and improve my speech and language.
Four weeks after my stroke, I was able to start using my POWERbreathe K5 breathing trainer again, but at a lower training load of 68cmH₂O compared to my pre-stroke training load of 85-87cmH₂O. However, six months on and I have managed to increase my training load to between 76–82cmH₂O – almost back to my pre-stroke level.
Not only am I showing improvement in my stroke recovery, but my cardiologist has also noticed improvements in my blood pressure, which was initially averaging around 144/82 – 139/77 but has now improved to between 122/73 – 132/76; much better for a 64-year-old with a health condition.”

S. B. UK

Post-Stroke Fatigue

Although everyone will experience different effects after a stroke, there are commonalities. For instance, after a stroke, you may feel fatigued. And in fact, lack of energy is one of the most common effects after a stroke. This can lead to difficulties during rehabilitation, and in everyday life. Fatigue is influenced by several factors, including depression, poor sleep, medication and pain. But physical symptoms too will cause fatigue. For instance, limb weakness will make movement harder work. Consequently, movement will require more energy and subsequently fatigue will set in. Finally, this reduces exercise tolerance, the level of exertion you can achieve before you become exhausted.

The good news is that research concludes,

Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT) should be considered an effective method of improving respiratory function, inspiratory muscle strength, and exercise tolerance in patients poststroke.”

‘Effects of RMT on Respiratory Function, Respiratory Muscle Strength, and Exercise Tolerance in Patients Poststroke’

Furthermore, specific Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT), such as POWERbreathe IMT, is shown to be an effective intervention for improving how well your lungs work (pulmonary function), how well your heart and lungs perform while exercising (cardiopulmonary endurance) and for reducing incidents of lung infections (pulmonary infection).

To check how well the lungs work, a pulmonary function test (PFT) is performed, the most common of which, is a Spirometry test. These tests measure how well you inhale and how well you exhale. PFTs are associated with stroke severity and are improved after respiratory muscle training (RMT). In fact, this same research found that,

RMT was associated with significant improvement in various PFT parameters and functional stroke parameters, reducing respiratory complications.

Pulmonary Function Tests Post-Stroke. Correlation between Lung Function, Severity of Stroke, and Improvement after Respiratory Muscle Training (2024)
What is POWERbreathe IMT?

Communication Recovery

When the part of the brain that is responsible for language suffers damage from a stroke, then you may have problems with speaking and understanding. The medical term for this is aphasia (full loss of language) or dysphasia (partial loss of language).

If stroke damage to your brain also causes weakness in the muscles involved in speech, then this too can result in difficulty speaking. This can include slurred speech, voice strain, and very quiet or very loud speech for example. This is known as dysarthria. A Speech and Language Therapist will be able to prescribe exercises to improve the volume or clarity of your speech. 

Swallow Rehab

Swallowing is a complex process that can be affected by stroke due to damage in the brain. The medical term for this is dysphagia. Your normal swallow reflex is affected which can cause small particles of food to enter your windpipe. In turn, this can damage your lungs and lead to frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia.

Again, as with dysarthria, a speech and language therapist will be able to help you manage the difficulty of swallowing. Along with tips to help make swallowing easier, they may also provide you with exercises to improve control of the muscles involved in swallowing.

One of a few therapies that provide exercises to help people who find it difficult to swallow, is Expiratory Muscle Strength Training (EMST or EMT). You may like to read more about Expiratory Muscle Strength Training For Dysphagia – a post-stroke symptom.

What is POWERbreathe EMT?

Shortness of Breath Post Stroke

Respiratory Muscle Training (RMT) is a technique that aims to improve the function of your breathing muscles. It achieves this through specific breathing exercises. These exercises increase the strength and endurance of your respiratory muscles. As a result, breathing fatigue reduces and you begin to feel less breathless.

Your respiratory muscles are those you use for inhalation and exhalation. You can exercise the muscles you use to inhale with POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT). And, you can also exercise your expiratory muscles, for instance to improve your cough function, with Expiratory Muscle Training.

POWERbreathe IMT is clinically proven Inspiratory Muscle Training. It is a Class 1 Medical Device. POWERbreathe IMT exercises the muscles you use to inhale, your inspiratory muscles. And scientific tests show that it increases inspiratory muscle strength, improves inspiratory stamina and reduces breathing fatigue.

Want To Know More?

There’s more here about how RMT, including IMT and EMT, can help you improve your post-stroke symptoms. And, if you would like to know more about how to keep your lungs healthy, there’s more in our blog, How To Improve Lung Health.