What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when the brain becomes starved of blood supply. When the blood supply to the brain is cut off, it will cause the affected part to die. Strokes can take different forms, the most common being Ischaemic and haemorrhagic. An Ischaemic stroke can have several causes including a blood clot, while the haemorrhagic type is due to a vessel bursting.
Mini-strokes can also occur. These are often called TIAs or Transient Ischaemic Attack.
How to Identify a Stroke Victim?
Symptoms include difficulties communicating, headaches, dizziness, problems with the eyesight and with swallowing. Poor balance and co-ordination can also be a sign of a stroke.
How can it be Treated?
Patients will be sent to a specialist ward to give them the best care available; brain scans are usually carried out to record where the damage is. Stroke patients will also have to go through a rehabilitation process to help them recover.
Ischaemic strokes are treated with medication to help prevent blood clots reoccurring; these drugs need to be given as soon as possible in order for them to be effective.
Anti-coagulants or aspirin will usually be prescribed to stop the formation of any more blood clots.
If blood pressure is one of the factors that have contributed to the stroke, then patients will be prescribed medication to help normalise it. A dietician will offer suggestions on diet such as reducing salt intake and fat content.
High cholesterol can cause a stroke and if this is an issue for a patient, then statins will be prescribed. Statins are often given as a preventative measure to avoid a stroke.
In the case of a blocked artery, surgery will sometimes be necessary. Following the initial recovery, patients will be seen by a physiotherapist to help them manage any of the remaining consequences of the stroke, such as problems with walking or weakness down one side of the body.
Community care will also be provided to help the patient manage any lasting symptoms; gadgets and aids will be made available to help with everyday things like gripping and bathing.
The Necessity for a Quick Diagnosis
A quick diagnosis is essential to ensure that the patient gets the best care as soon as possible. Studies have shown treatment to be the most affective the sooner it is administered.
In recent years, the government ran a series of adverts identifying the most common symptoms of a stroke to look out for. These include:-
The way to remember the signs is to remember the word "FAST" which stands for (Face, Arms, Speech, Time).
If someone is experiencing any of these tell-tale signs, then an ambulance should be called immediately. Research has suggested that treatment within the first 90 minutes is crucial if a stroke victim is to minimise the impact and promote a faster recovery.
Do Stroke Victims Recover?
Many patients do get better but the journey is a long and arduous one. Recovery will depend on how badly the patient has been affected and how soon the stroke was diagnosed and treated.
Physiotherapy can help a patient regain strength and mobility after a stroke, but the complete healing process can sometimes take years, and even then the person might not be quite the same as they were before and will have to make lifestyle adjustments.
The Stroke Association highlights some of the other health issues that might affect a person following a stroke. These include fatigue, problems with cognitive function and depression; In addition, some patients will also experience emotional trauma and physical disability.
Strokes can sometimes be avoidable. Diet is one area to address. Diets high in salt will increase the blood pressure, leaving a person more vulnerable to a stroke. High fat diets will contribute to high cholesterol, so it is worth adopting a low fat eating plan.
Diabetes is a disease that can lead to a stroke if not properly taken care of. Diabetics should strive to keep their blood sugars within the normal range and manage their blood pressure as well.
Being overweight will also give a person an increased risk of a stroke, which makes choosing a healthy lifestyle, losing weight and eating well even more important.
Image credit: ginasanders / 123RF Stock Photo
January 30, 2013