The only proper way to bring the month of May to a close is to honor its title as Stroke Awareness Month with information to help reduce the risk of stroke for your loved one.
But as we do with all disease and disorder awareness posts on the Griswold Blog, we’re going to commence with some background information on strokes. As we always say, knowledge is power — the first step toward illness prevention is awareness of its origins, risk factors, signs and symptoms.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is the sudden death of brain cells in a certain area due to restricted blood flow.
What causes a stroke?
There are two primary causes. Firstly, a stroke can occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain, interfering with blood and oxygen supply to the surrounding brain cells. The second cause is the breaking of a blood vessel in the brain, which causes bleeding (hemorrhaging). Whether a clot or hemorrhage is the trigger, the death of brain cells results in impaired functioning of the body parts they control.
What are the risk factors?
The risk of stroke increases with age. This risk is enhanced by:
- High blood pressure
- Hardened arteries
- Heart disease
- Family history of heart problems
It’s also worth mentioning that, contrary to popular belief, more elderly women than elderly men suffer or die from stroke.
What are the warning signs?
- Sudden weakness, numbness and/or tingling in the face, arm or leg
- Sudden loss of speech, or trouble understanding speech
- Sudden loss of vision — particularly in one eye — or double vision
- Sudden, severe, and uncharacteristic headaches
- Sudden falling and unsteadiness
What are the long-term side effects?
The side effects of a stroke vary for each person, since strokes can occur in many different parts of the brain — and therefore affect different parts of the body. Some people fully recover and experience no aftereffects at all, while others suffer from debilitating blindness or paralysis in certain parts of their bodies. Some common long-term effects include:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Inability to move a group of muscles on one side of the body (hemiplegia)
- Problems with vision, ranging from impaired hand-eye coordination and inability to see more than one object in the visual field at once (Balint’s Syndrome) to complete blindness (Anton’s Syndrome).
- Problems with speech (aphasia)
- Sensory distortion and inability to identify an object using the sense of touch (astereognosis, aka tactile agnosia)
- Abnormalities in self-perception, including inability to differentiate right from left and ignoring or not recognizing any resulting paralysis (hemineglect)
But it’s always important to consider the silver lining — up to 80% of strokes can be prevented! Check back soon or subscribe so you can learn how to help prevent a stroke in your loved one.
If you have experiences with a loved one who had a stroke and want to share, please do so in the comments below.