What is a stroke?
Strokes happen when:
- An artery going to the brain gets clogged or closes off and part of the brain goes without blood for too long
- An artery breaks open and starts bleeding into or around the brain.
How can you tell if someone is having a stroke?
A straightforward way to remember the signs of a stroke is using the word FAST.
Face: Does the person’s face look uneven or droop on one side?
Arm: Does the person have weakness or numbness in one or both arms? Does one arm drift down if the person tries to hold both arms out?
Speech: Is the person having trouble speaking? Does his or her speech sound strange or slurred?
Time: You need to act FAST if you notice any of these stroke signs! Call for help or get the person to the hospital as quickly as possible.
How are strokes treated?
Treatment is determined by the type of stroke. It is however pertinent to get to the hospital quickly.
Strokes that are caused by clogged arteries can be treated by:
- reopening the clogged arteries.
- administration of medication that prevents new blood clots.
Strokes that are caused by bleeding can be treated by:
- application of medications that reduce the damage caused by bleeding in or around the brain.
- outright discontinuing of medicines that encourage or increase bleeding.
- surgery to repair the artery or stop the bleeding.
Can strokes be prevented?
Strokes can be prevented by taking medications for certain conditions as prescribed by a qualified doctor and making lifestyle modifications.
Medicines that help reduce risk of stroke include:
- Blood pressure medications
- Statins to lower cholesterol
- Medicines that prevent clots e.g. aspirin or blood thinners
- Medicines that help to control high blood sugar for diabetic patients.
Lifestyle modifications that can help prevent strokes include
- Regular exercise
- Weight loss, if overweight
- Smoking cessation
- Reduction in salt consumption
- Limit in alcohol consumption
TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack)
A TIA is like a stroke, but no damage is done to the brain. A TIA occurs when an artery in the brain gets clogged or closes off and reopens on its own.
While TIAs do not have lasting symptoms, they should however not be ignored. If you have a TIA, you have a considerable risk of having a stroke. It is important to see your doctor immediately and take steps to prevent the occurrence of a stroke.
Recovery after a stroke:
People who have suffered strokes can have long term complications; some of which include:
- Speech problems: They can experience problems with speaking or understanding speech.
- Weakness and movement problems: Muscle weakness or paralysis of the left or right side of the body is another commonly reported complication. This can affect the face, arm, and leg. Such people can also have trouble walking, grasping objects or balancing.
- Loss of sensation: Partial or total loss of feeling on the left or right half of the body of stroke sufferers is not uncommon.
- Trouble eating or swallowing: People who have a stroke sometimes have trouble swallowing. This can cause the food to go down the wrong way and into the lungs which can lead to lung infections such as pneumonia.
- Problems thinking clearly or interacting with others: They sometimes get easily confused or have trouble staying focused. They can also have personality changes that make them react differently to others.
- Depression: Depression is another known complication for people who have a stroke.
- Problems with bladder control: People who have a stroke sometimes can’t control their bladder and or leak urine.
What happens during recovery from a stroke?
Recovery often involves treatment in a stroke rehabilitation center, where people work to regain some of the abilities they lost. This will include working with a physical therapist who can help improve walking; a speech and language therapist can help improve talking and an occupational therapist can help with improving strength in your arms. A psychiatrist can also help with medications to treat depression.
Can you recover fully after a stroke?
This depends on a lot of factors such as:
- How big the stroke was
- What part of the brain was damaged by the stroke
- How old the person is: the younger the better
- Other medical conditions the person might have
- How soon the person was treated after the stroke
Please note that even though the brain can over time adapt and recover some function, the most important thing besides consistence in committing to rehab, is patience. This is because it takes time to heal and learn new ways to deal with a hitherto unplanned, life altering sickness.