Friday, April 24, 2009

Don't "stroke" out!

Have you ever known anyone to have a stroke? Have you ever been the caregiver of someone who has experienced a stroke? Many times it is not an easy task for the patient or the nurse. Once stroke symptoms start you are suddenly on a time schedule. You have so much time to get to a certified stroke center and get the appropriate medical treatment for the type of stroke you are having, to be able to minimize the mass long term effects of a stroke.

If you are having an ischemic stroke and are treated within 3 hours of FIRST symptoms you have a much higher percentage of recovering with little residual effects than someone who is not treated within this time frame. Therefore it is important to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke as well as the risk factors of having a stroke.

Some of the warning signs of a stroke include:

* 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 in one or both eyes
* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
* Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone you know experience the above symptoms call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not drive them yourself to a hospital or clinic.

There are two types of risk factors for stoke; controllable and uncontrollable

The uncontrollable risk factors include:
* Age
* Gender
* Race
* Family History
* Previous Stroke or TIA

The controllable risk factors include:

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) - A blood pressure below 120/80 is considered "normal". If you have high blood pressure your heart is working harder to pump blood through your body, which can weaken the blood vessels and damage your brain as well as other major organs. Medication can be used to control high blood pressure.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) - This is where the atria of the heart beats unpredictably and rapidly, which produces an irregular heartbeat. This causes blood to pool in the the heart and form clots. When the clots are released from the heart and carried to the brain, this causes a stroke.
Atrial Fibrillation increases the risk for stroke up to 6 times. Medication can be used to help control atrial fibrillation.

High Cholesterol - A fatty substance in the blood that our bodies make on their own. However we also get it from fat in the foods we eat.

Arteries can become clogged by too much cholesterol in the bloodstream, and lead to a stroke or heart attack. This also puts you at greater risk for heart disease which in turn puts you at greater risk for a stroke. Your combined HDL and LDL cholesterol should fall below 200mg/dL

Diabetes - In diabetes, the body doesn't produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin.
Most diabetics have other health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity/excess weight. These problems increase their risk of stroke even more. People who are Diabetic are at a 2-4 times greater risk for stroke.

Tobacco Use/Smoking - Smoking damages blood vessel walls, speeds up the clogging of arteries, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke.

Alcohol Use -Drinking more than 2 drinks per day may increase stroke risk by 50%.

Obesity/Excessive Weight - Excess weight makes people more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also puts a greater strain on the body in general.

Suprisingly up to 80% of all strokes are preventable! Know the risk factors and if you fall into any of these catagories pay attention to your body.

Below is a list of things you can do to help prevent a stroke:

* Monitor your blood pressure and if it is above normal range speak to your physician about
ways to help keep manage it and keep it at a safe level for you.
* If you have atrial fibrillation, take your medication and follow up with your physician.
* If you smoke, stop.
* If you drink alcohol, keep it in moderation.
* If you are diabetic, work with your physician and a dietician to help keep it closely monitored
and controlled.
* Exercise! Even a 30 minute brisk walk can help reduce your risk and improve your overall
* Lower your sodium and fat intake in your diet.
* Know the symptoms listed above and don't wait to act on them.
If you have ever seen anyone have a stroke or seen someone with mass effects from a stroke you will understand why this is so important. I have personally cared for many stroke patients. Some who made it to the hospital in time and were treated and had little residual effects. Others who were not so lucky and had mass effects.

It is saddening to see a patient young or old who is unable to communicate, unable to swallow, unable to eat, unable to move one side of their body and now has to rely on caregivers to do normal tasks that they once were able to do for themselves. It is saddening to speak to a patient who is unable to speak back to you, but you look at them and can see in their eyes that they have something they so desperately want to say but can't. They can't tell you what hurts, they can't tell you they are afraid, they can't tell their family how much they love them. They can't tell you how humiliated they are feeling because they have urinated on themselves because they couldn't communicate to you, their caregiver, that they even had to urinate.

It breaks my heart to see these patients. I have seen many recover, with the help of good physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. However, I have seen all too many who leave the hospital not walking, not able to live at home any more and now will live their days in a facility, where they will have 24 hour care by professionals, not their family.

Please, if you or someone you love is at risk for a stroke, share this information. Educate yourself and your loved ones. Seek medical attention and advice from your physician.

I am a medical professional, however I am not a doctor. All I can do here is increase awareness and pray that each of you understand the importance of knowing the risk factors and symptoms to watch for. All the information on this particular post was found at the above red links.
For more information on strokes please go to the National Stroke Association website at or the Amerian Stroke Association at

Keep yourself educated!!


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