WHAT IS A STROKE?
Your brain is fed by blood carrying oxygen and nutrients through blood vessels. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked or bursts. This causes interruption to the flow of blood and oxygen, killing brain cells. About 1.9 million brain cells die every minute after a stroke. Damage to the brain can affect how the body works, and can change how you think and feel.
WHAT CAUSES IT?
As you age, your arteries become harder and narrower and more likely to become blocked. However, certain medical conditions and lifestyle factors can speed up this process and increase your risk of having a stroke.
TYPES OF STROKE.
There are three different types of stroke:
- Ischaemic Stroke -
- Haemorrhagic Stroke -
- Transient Ischaemic Attack -
3 TYPES OF STROKE.
Ischaemic Stroke (is-key-mick)
This is caused by a blockage or blood clot cutting off the blood supply to the brain. This is the most common type and can occur in two ways:
Embolic stroke - this occurs when a blood clot, that was formed somewhere in the body (usually the heart) travels through the bloodstream to your brain, until it reaches vessels too small to let it pass.
Thrombotic stroke - this is mainly caused through fatty deposits in blood vessels and arteries. Over time these deposits can increase in size and narrow or block blood vessels. This cuts off the supply of blood flow to the brain and results in a thrombotic stroke.
Haemorrhagic Stroke (hemm-orr-ragic)
This is caused by bleeding in or around the brain. The blood builds up and creates pressure on the surrounding brain tissue. These bleeds can be caused by a ballooning of a weakened region of a blood vessel or a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
This is known as a mini stroke. It is caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply to an area of the brain. It can cause symptoms similar to a stroke, but unlike a stroke these symptoms pass quickly and usually fully resolve within 24 hours.
HOW TO SPOT A STROKE.
Balance: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
Eyes: Is the person experiencing double vision or is unable to see out of one eye?
Face: Is one side of the face drooping? Ask the person to smile.
Arms: Does one arm drift downward? Have the persons raise both arms in the air.
Speech: Is the person slurring their speech or having difficulty getting words out right?
Time: Time to act! Call 1-1-9 Immediately!
1. Control high blood pressure (hypertension).
This is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your stroke risk as more than half of all strokes are linked to hypertension. Knowing your blood pressure and controlling it with lifestyle changes or medication will reduce your risk of stroke.
2. Exercise regularly.
Exercise reduces your risk of stroke in many ways. It helps to lower your blood pressure, increase your levels of good cholesterol, and improve the overall health of your blood vessels and heart. Over a third of all strokes happen to people who do not get enough exercise. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5-7 times per week is highly recommended.
3. Eat a healthy balanced diet.
About a quarter of all strokes are linked to poor diet. Eating a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables and reducing consumption of processed food will reduce your risk of stroke.
4. Reduce your cholesterol.
Eating less cholesterol and fat, especially saturated fat and trans fats, may reduce the buildup in your arteries. Avoiding processed food and exercise will also help to reduce your risk. If you cannot maintain a healthy cholesterol level with lifestyle changes, your doctor may advise medication to help.
5. Maintain a healthy weight.
Being overweight contributes to other stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you are overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can have a significant impact on your stroke risk
Knowing your stroke risk factors, following your doctors' recommendations and adopting a healthy lifestyle are the best steps you can take to prevent a stroke. If you have had a stroke, these measures might help prevent another. Healthy lifestyle recommendations include:
6. Stop smoking and avoid smoky environments.
Smoking accelerates clot formation by thickening the blood and increasing the amount of plaque build-up in arteries. Smoking raises the risk of stroke for smokers and non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke. Getting help to quit increases your chances of success.
7. Reduce your alcohol intake.
Heavy alcohol consumption increases your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Alcohol may also interact with other drugs you are taking. It is advised that you drink small to moderate amounts of alcohol, such as one drink a day.
8. Identify and treat atrial fibrillation (AF).
AF is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. People with AF are 5x more likely to have a stroke than the general population. If you are over 50 talk to your doctor about AF screening and if you have AF talk about treatments that will reduce your risk.
9. Manage diabetes.
If you are diabetic you are at a higher risk of stroke. Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form. Diet, exercise and losing weight can help you keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. If lifestyle factors do not seem to be enough to control your diabetes, your doctor may prescribe diabetes medication.
10. Manage stress and depression.
Almost 1 in 6 strokes are linked to mental well-being. Managing stress, depression, anger and anxiety are all important to reducing stroke risk.
LIFE AFTER A STROKE.
A stroke can affect how you think, talk, move and feel. It can cause temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the brain lacks blood flow and which part of the brain was affected.
Complications may include:
● Paralysis or muscle spasticity.
You may become paralyzed on one side of your body, or lose control of certain muscles, such as those on one side of your face or one arm. Brain injury caused by a stroke sometimes causes paralyzed muscles to involuntarily contract (shorten or flex) after trying to move a limb. This creates stiffness and tightness, and is referred to as spasticity.
Spasticity in the arm can cause a tight fist, bent elbow and arm pressed against the chest. Spasticity in the leg may cause a stiff knee, pointed foot and curling toes. It can also cause muscle spasms, overactive reflexes and involuntary jerking.
Fatigue is weariness that is not related to how active you have been and does not get better with rest. Fatigue is very common after stroke no matter how mild or severe your stroke was. The signs of fatigue vary between individuals, but you may feel like you lack energy or strength, and are constantly tired. It could make it very difficult for you to take
part in everyday activities and can also affect your recovery and rehabilitation.
● Difficulty talking or swallowing.
A stroke might affect control of the muscles in your mouth and throat, making it difficult for you to talk clearly, swallow or eat. You also may have difficulty with language, including speaking or understanding speech, reading, or writing.
● Memory loss or thinking difficulties.Many people who have had strokes experience some memory loss. Others may have difficulty thinking, reasoning, making judgments and understanding concepts. These difficulties can often become more noticeable after you get home and start getting back into routines and activities.
● Emotional problems.
People who have had strokes may have more difficulty controlling their emotions, or they may develop depression. Depression after a stroke, as after any severe illness, is very common, often goes without diagnosis, reduces motivation and capacity for rehabilitation and affects quality of life. Depression not only affects the individual who has had a stroke, partners, family members and carers are also at higher risk of depression.
Pain, numbness or other unusual sensations may occur in the parts of the body affected by stroke. For example, if a stroke causes you to lose feeling in your left arm, you may develop an uncomfortable tingling sensation in that arm. Shoulder pain can also occur due to muscle stiffness, or because of weak muscles leading to a partial dislocation.
Headaches are also common after a stroke.
● Changes in behaviour.
People who have had strokes may experience a noticeable change in behaviour. Here are some changes that you or others around you may notice:
- You have become more stressed, angry or aggressive.
- You have become withdrawn and do not talk very much.
- You do not show any interest in the things you used to enjoy.
- You make decisions without considering what will happen afterwards.
- You are less inhibited, which can make you more outspoken or seem self-centred
- And can also change your sexual behaviour.
A stroke can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any age. This means that the effects, as well as the type of support needed after a stroke may vary with each situation. For most stroke survivors life will be different. Therefore, it is important for you, as a survivor, your caregivers and family members, to accept and adjust to these changes as it is fundamental to your recovery and well- being.
It is crucial that you also understand that finding your ‘new normal’ will not happen overnight. Working with your healthcare team, developing new routines and tracking small step-by-step goals, is the best way to make progress. Rehabilitation can build your strength, capability and confidence. It can help you continue your daily activities despite the effects of your stroke. Keep your doctors, and other health professionals involved in your care, informed of your
progress, changes to your condition or any concerns. Ask what you can do to support recovery at home. Recognise that your emotions and mood can have a huge impact on your quality of life and motivation. If you feel low talk to your healthcare workers, family and friends. The Global Stroke Bill of Rights was developed as part of the World Stroke Campaign in consultation with stroke survivors and caregivers around the world. It sets out what patients and caregivers around the world felt was most important to their recovery.
PATIENTS WANT TO:
1. Be provided with hope for the best possible recovery they can make now and into the future.
2. Receive psychological and emotional support in a form that best meets their needs.
3. Be included in all aspects of society regardless of any disability they may have.
4. Receive support, financial or otherwise, to ensure they are cared for in the longer term.
5. Be supported to return to work and/ or to other activities they may choose to participate in after their stroke.
6. Get access to formal and informal advocacy to assist them with access to the services they need.
7. Be connected to other stroke survivors and caregivers so they may gain and provide support in their recovery from stroke.