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Youth Stroke and Habits with Ella Sofia

Released Wednesday, 10th June 2020
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Modern social media means anyone can reach out and connect with other stroke and brain injury survivors. And we are part of an amazing community.
Instagram is where I first encounter stroke survivor and entrepreneur Ella Sofia. We met through an Instagram Live video she did with Joe Borges of the Neuro Nerds podcast.
Ella survived two strokes when she was 14. I’m glad she tells story for several reasons. One though, is the reminder that kids can have strokes. A lot of folks don’t realize that. If you’d like to learn more about stroke in kids, you can listen to my conversation from 2019 with Dr. Heather Fullerton
Another important element is that Ella was athletic and still had her stroke. Being active and healthy with good blood pressure reduces your chances of having a stroke, but it doesn’t eliminate it. A number of guests on the show have been healthy, young and had a stroke. Sometimes it’s for an obvious reason (after the fact) like the Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) Ella experienced, and sometimes we may never know, which was the case with Whitney Morean.
So why bother getting in shape? First of all, a healthy body  does still reduce the odds of stroke even if it doesn’t guarantee that it won’t happen. Second, it makes recovery faster and more complete.


Ella Sophia stands in a park wearing a leather jacket and looking straight at the camera.

Ella Sofia, Habit Coach is a content creator at www.retrainyourbrain.ca.
In January 2008, at the age of 14, Ella suffered a hemorrhagic stroke due to an AVM rupture in her cerebellum.  About 9 years after her injury, through a long process of self-care and self-reflection, she finally and thankfully realized that mental rehabilitation is just as, if not more important than physical rehabilitation.  Now, she specializes in the mind’s role in habit creation to help others with their mental rehab and ultimately help others use habit to simplify their personal growth.
Ella received a Master of Arts, Sociology degree from the University of Waterloo in 2018.  Her research revolved around risk management, resilience, and security in Canada airports.  She spent nearly 3 years working for the Canadian government in national security while completing her degree.  During her time with the government she realized that the resilience of the airports and structures she was studying was not so different from the resilience of the mind.  This realization lead her to integrate many of the concepts and practices learned from her research into her coaching today.

What is an AVM?

An AVM is a misconfiguration of blood vessels. Instead of arteries gradually leading to smaller and smaller capillaries that then lead to larger and fewer blood vessels and into veins,  in an AVM, that network of capillaries doesn’t develop properly. The blood vessel can’t properly regulate and withstand the blood pressure. Eventually, it can fail. That results in a brain bleed — a hemorrhagic stroke.
Here is an article that talks about it in greater…

Changing Habits

Habits — good or bad — are unconscious behaviors. To change them we first have to make ourselves conscious of the context of the habit.
Ella talks about how to do that. When you feel the urge to engage in a bad habit, stop, ask yourself some questions and take some notes.
  • Who?
    • Who are you with or thinking about?
  • What?
    • What are you doing at the moment? What is going on? Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem connected to your habit. Just make note of it.
  • Where?
    • Where are you? Make note of it. Get specific about where you are in your home or in the world.
  • When?
    • When did the urge happen? Note the time or other temporal queues,
  • What are you feeling?
    • What sort of mood are you in? What other things are you worried about?
You don’t have to do all the analysis. Just start by making note of these things. As you collect data, you’ll start to see trends. Then the work can start.


Ella Sofia’s website


Ella on Instagram


Ella on Twitter


Ella on Facebook


Ella on LinkedIn


Ella on Goodreads


Ella on YouTube


Book a Consultation


Joe Borges on Strokecast


The NeuroNerds Podcast


My Stroke of Insight


Pediatric STROKE ON strokecast


AVM Information


Where do we go from here?

Strokecast is the stroke podcast where a Gen X stroke survivor explores rehab, recovery, the frontiers of neuroscience and one-handed banana peeling by helping stroke survivors, caregivers, medical providers and stroke industry affiliates connect and share their stories.
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