When I tell someone Mom had a stroke, they almost all have a story of someone close to them who has also had one, often severe. Stroke is a very common ailment. In the Heart and Stroke Foundation booklet our family was given, it says that stroke is the most costly of all illnesses. One reason is that people often live years after a stroke, many needing part or full time care. Many people live for years after a stroke without being able to communicate or walk.
Is stroke preventable? Not always, but we can manage the risk. Mom has a heart ailment, so stroke was a very real probability. But high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and stress are things we can control. Our age, gender, and family history are things we can’t. Check the Heart and Stroke Foundation website : http://www.heartandstroke.com
Do you know what a stroke is? “A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. It is caused by the interruption of flow of blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). The interruption of blood flow or the rupture of blood vessels causes brain cells (neurons) in the affected area to die.” (From the Heart and Stroke Foundation website.)
How do you know if someone is having a stroke? Most often stroke victims will have sudden weakness on one side of the body or face. They often slur their speech or lose it. They may have vision problems, or sudden headache, or dizziness. These symptoms may be only temporary, even just a few minutes. They call those TIAs – transient ischemic attack, or mini-strokes. Please go to emergency, even with TIAs.
If you think someone might be having a stroke, ask them to do these things: raise both arms. If there is weakness on one side, they will not be able to raise one arm properly. Ask them to smile – is one side ‘falling’ inside of turning up? Can they say a simple sentence without difficulty? Can they stick out their tongue? (Tongue control is difficult if a person has a stroke.) If they have problems with any of these things, and show any of the above signs, PLEASE take them to emergency immediately.
There is a clot buster drug that can be administered that can dramatically reduce the effects of a stroke, but it must be administered within three hours of the stroke. This drug can only be used if the stroke was the effect of a blood clot. There are instances where even then it cannot be used, such as with my mother who was on various drugs for her heart condition that prevented the use.
Stroke is so common we should make sure we are well informed, and take all precautions to reduce our risk.