In just the last two months, former teen heartthrob Luke Perry and acclaimed director John Singleton died after suffering a stroke. Both men were only in their early 50’s at the time of their deaths and outwardly appeared to be in good health. While we may never know all the details, these deaths highlight the very real danger stoke presents for all Americans. Consider these facts from the National Stroke Association:
- Nearly 800,000 people experience a stroke each year.
- Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. as well as the leading cause of disability.
The good news is that up to 80% of strokes can be prevented, but that requires at-risk groups to be more aware of stroke danger and make a number of associated lifestyle changes to reduce that risk. Fortunately, May is National Stroke Awareness month, which provides us a great opportunity to talk more about stroke prevention. First, let’s learn a bit more about the condition.
What is Stroke?
A stroke interrupts blood flow to an area of the brain. As a result, brain cells begin dying and the activities controlled by that section of the brain, like memory and muscle control, become compromised. There are two different types of stroke:
- Hemorrhagic Stroke: In this instance, a brain aneurysm bursts or a weakened blood vessel leaks. While these are the least common form of stroke, they most often result in death.
- Ischemic Stroke: Here, a clot blocks a vessel carrying blood to the brain. Ischemic stroke accounts for 87% of all stroke cases.
Some stroke patients suffer transient ischemic attack (TIA), where the brain’s blood flow stops for only a short amount of time. While these events are not technically a stroke, they can indicate an increased risk of stroke in the future.
What Happens to the Body After a Stroke?
The effects of a stroke on the body depends on its severity. In the worst instances, loss of blood flow causes widespread brain cell death. These patients’ bodies can be kept alive by machines but they’ll be unresponsive and exist in a permanent state of unconsciousness. If the stroke is relatively small or physicians can intervene before too much damage is done, patients may experience a variety of physical symptoms. These could include memory loss or cognitive impairments, speech and nerve problems, or muscle control issues. In some instances, the effects can be mitigated through physical, occupational, and other forms of therapy, but in many cases, these symptoms are permanent.
Five Signs of a Stroke
During an Ischemic Stroke, doctors can restore the flow of blood to the brain by administering a clot busting medicine called tissue plasminogen activator or tPA. This treatment can greatly reduce the patient’s post-stroke symptoms. However, the treatment must be administered within 3-4 hours of the start of the stroke. With this information in mind, it’s imperative we all learn the five signs of a stroke so we can recognize them in ourselves, our loved ones, or our co-workers. These signs all come on suddenly and include:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Vision problems in one or both eyes.
- Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech.
- Difficulty walking or dizziness, loss of balance, or coordination.
- Severe headaches with no known cause.
If you or someone around you begins experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 right away.
Who is Most at Risk for Stroke?
As with a heart attack, the major risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and heart disease. Risk for stroke also increases with age. According to the NIH, “three-quarters of strokes occur in people ages 65 and older.” In addition, “African Americans have almost two times the risk of white people of having a first stroke.” So focusing on your cardiovascular health is a positive way to help control your stroke risk.
Are Strokes Preventable?
As we mentioned earlier, 80% of strokes are preventable through lifestyle changes and positive health habits. Here are a few areas to focus your efforts:
- Control High Blood Pressure: Ongoing, uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage the heart and weaken blood vessels, increasing the risk of stroke.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, causing clots to form more easily.
- Lower High Cholesterol: Patients with high cholesterol are more likely to have blood clots.
- Eat Healthy and Stay Active: Eating a low-fat diet and exercising regularly are the best way to live a heart-healthy lifestyle.
- Manage Your Diabetes: Diabetes causes blood vessel constriction which can lead to stroke.
- Take Your Medication: Blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can all be managed through medication. If you’ve been prescribed drugs as a treatment for any of these conditions, continue taking the recommended dose until your doctor instructs you otherwise.
Of course, the earlier you begin these prevention measures the better. However, it’s never too late to start making positive lifestyle changes.
Impact of Stroke on Independent Living
Patients who’ve experienced a stroke often suffer from reduced mobility. This may be a temporary condition or more permanent, depending on the stroke’s severity. In either case, patients must adjust to a new normal as they learn to navigate the world with limited mobility. In these cases, it can be difficult to accomplish the ordinary tasks of daily living they previously took for granted. Simple things like meal preparation, bathing, grooming, and household chores can suddenly become impossible. In our next article, we’ll talk more about how in-home care can help stroke patients navigate these sudden changes in circumstance.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasize a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.