Stroke Awareness Month
Stroke Awareness Month
May is Stroke Awareness Month, and we here at Greystone Health have put together a primer to help you recognize the signs of a stroke, as well as the proper treatment and prevention. Stroke symptoms can vary, so it’s important to understand the distinction in the way the signs may present themselves.
There are two main types of strokes. The first is what is called an Ischemic Stroke. Similar to a heart attack, a ischemic stroke occurs in the blood vessels of the brain. Clots can form either in the brain’s blood vessels, the blood vessels leading to the brain, or blood vessels elsewhere in the body that can travel to the brain. These clots block blood flow to the brain’s cells. Ischemic strokes can also occur when too much plaque (fatty deposits and cholesterol) clogs the brain’s blood vessels. About 80% of all strokes are ischemic.
The other type of stroke is a Hemorrhagic Stroke, when a blood vessel in the brain breaks or ruptures. Blood seeping into the brain tissue causes damage to brain cells. The most common causes of hemorrhagic stroke are high blood pressure and brain aneurysms.
Men over 65 have a higher risk and more occurrence of stroke, but women usually suffer more fatal strokes than men. African-Americans tend to be at a higher risk as well. The main signs of stroke for both men and women are:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you find yourself experiences one or any combination of these symptoms, it’s essential that you get medical help as soon as possible. Your chances of survival and recovery outcomes are even better if the stroke is identified and treated immediately. There is a very easy way to remember the signs of a stroke, because you’ll need to think FAST:
Slurring of speech
Time to call 911
Treatment for stroke depends on the type of stroke and how quickly help is able to arrive. An ischemic stroke can only be treated by one drug, called Tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. GIven via IV, it works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood flow. tPA should be given within three hours of the time symptoms first started. This treatment usually has upwards of an 80% success rate. If you’ve had a hemorrhagic stroke, you most likely will have to have surgery to remove the bleeding vessel and any blood that has spilled into the brain.
Medical advances have greatly improved survival rates and recovery from stroke during the last decade. Having your blood pressure checked regularly, keeping your cholesterol levels in check, quitting smoking and other healthy lifestyle behaviors can help prevent stroke as we age. Seniors can also have a simple test designed to detect subtle neurological problems, which may show indications of brain damage that could lead to a stroke. In some cases, stroke symptoms could be caused by overmedicating. To help reduce the chance of this happening, make sure you’re taking your medications as prescribed. It’s also been shown that sleep apnea can increase the risk of stroke.
If you’ve experienced a stroke, the road to recovery can be a long and often frustrating one. Stroke patients can be left with various temporary or permanent changes, and post-stroke care will depend on a patient’s specific needs.
Rehabilitation actually starts in the hospital as soon as possible following a stroke. Patients who are stable enough may begin rehabilitation within two days after the stroke, and should be continued as necessary after being released from the hospital. Physical therapy and rehab are essential to improve function so that you can resume your daily life and have as much independence as possible. You may have to relearn basic skills that the stroke may have impaired, such as bathing, eating, dressing yourself, and walking. These once simple actions you carried out without thought will take effort, and this change in your lifestyle may lead to increased depression. It’s important to remember that your rehab team is there for you, and will cheer you on as you make your way down the road to recovery.
At Greystone Health, our rehabilitation centers are communities where the center of our world is your well-being. We want our guests and their families to know that they’re receiving the highest standard of care at all times. If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke and is in need of our rehab services, please visit our website at www.GreystoneHealth.com.