Strokes occur when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted or stopped. The term stroke was first used to describe someone suddenly being struck by the illness, resulting in paralysis or unconsciousness.
Until recently, there were not any treatments to decrease the disabling results of the stroke event. There are now medications available to assist with prevention of major disabling conditions, but they must be administered within three hours of the onset of symptoms.
The Brain Injury Transitional Services (BITS) program in the Mabee Rehabilitation Center can help patients who are stroke survivors cope with the challenges of recovering.
It is very important that the symptoms are recognized and that the event is understood to be an emergency.
- Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death
- There are more than 137,000 deaths per year
- There are about 610,000 new strokes per year
- Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability
- Stroke is the leading diagnosis requiring patients to go from the hospital to long-term care/nursing homes
*Statistics are provided by the Center of Disease and Control and the American Stroke Association.
Strokes are the most preventable of all catastrophic conditions.
S = SYMPTOMS
T = TIME
R = RISKS
O = OPPORTUNITY
K = KNOW
E = EMERGENCY
S = Symptoms: Symptoms of a stroke include the following:
- Sudden blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Loss of speech or trouble talking or understanding speech
- Sudden weakness or numbness of face, arm, leg or on one side of body
- Sudden severe headache without known cause
- Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls, especially along with other symptoms
T = Time is brain, because every second counts: Strokes occur after a disruption in blood flow to a part of the brain. There are two possible causes of this disruption-a clot blocks a blood vessel, or a break in a blood vessel that causes bleeding.
The most frequent cause is the ischemic stroke, where a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. The clot may have formed in the vessel of the brain or elsewhere in the body, broken loose and then traveled to the brain. In either case, it is very important that medical attention be sought immediately.
There is medication that can be given to dissolve the clot and it is referred to as t-PA or "the clot busting drug." But, there are tests/examinations that must be done first at our Vascular and Interventional Radiology department to make sure it is safe for the person to take the drug and this all needs to be done within three hours of the first signs of the stroke.
If there is bleeding in the brain that has caused the stroke, it is equally important to go to the hospital for evaluation. The tests can determine the extent of the bleeding and whether surgical intervention will be required.
R = Risks: Risks associated with stroke include the following:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Previous Stroke or TIA
- Cocaine/Crack Use
- Excessive Alcohol Intake
- Blood Abnormalities
O = Opportunity: There is opportunity to prevent a stroke by changing your lifestyle, using the following prevention guidelines from the National Stroke Association:
- Know your blood pressure-if elevated, work with your doctor to keep it under control.
- Find out whether you have atrial fibrillation (AF), and if so, work with your doctor to manage it.
- If you smoke, STOP.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
- Know your cholesterol number. If it is high, work with your doctor to control it.
- If you are diabetic, follow your doctor's recommendations to carefully control your diabetes.
- Include exercise in the activities you enjoy in your daily routine.
- Enjoy a lower-sodium, lower-fat diet.
- Ask your doctor whether you have circulation problems that will increase your risk for stroke. If so, work with your doctor to control them.
- If you have any stroke symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
K = Know: The key is to know the warning signs of stroke and to act immediately to get medical help. If any of these signs occur, CALL 911:
- Sudden weakness or numbness.
- Sudden blurred or loss of vision in one or both eyes.
- Sudden severe headache without known cause.
- Loss of speech/trouble talking or understanding speech.
- Unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls, especially along with other signs.
E = Emergency: A stroke is an emergency situation:
- Strokes can occur at any age, and the frequency of occurrence is increasing among persons in their 40s and younger.
- It is important that all members of a family know the warning signs so that anyone can call 911 when necessary. Every minute counts.
- Remember, the person experiencing the stroke symptoms most likely will not be able to get the emergency system activated on his or her own.
Stroke Support Group
Formed in 2002 and led by Marc Stevens, a stroke survivor, Stroke Folks helps survivors and their loved ones understand the physical and emotional changes accompanying a stroke and promote the healing process. Monthly newsletters are sent to participants providing information about the program and topics to be covered in the upcoming meetings. Stroke Folks meets at 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month in the Texas Rehabilitation Hospital. For more information, please call 817-250-4991.