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Prevention and Treatment for Stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. When blood flow is cut off to the brain, the affected tissue in the brain is starved of oxygen. As a result, brain cells can begin to die. The long-term effects of a stroke depend on the severity and type of stroke a person suffers.

Types of Stroke & Their Treatments

There are three different types of strokes that can occur.

Ischemic Stroke

This type of stroke accounts for approximately 87% of all strokes suffered. An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood flow through an artery that supplies a portion of the brain with blood becomes blocked. Blood clots are often the cause of blockages.

Stroke treatment typically begins with medication that dissolves clots. Aspirin is a common medication for this, but, it must be injected within 4.5 hours of symptoms beginning. In emergencies, a catheter may be used to physically remove the clot.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery in the brain bursts, causing leaked blood to place pressure on brain cells, which can cause damage to them. Most commonly, the burst artery will flood the surrounding tissue with blood, but in rare cases, bleeding can occur inside of the brain under the thin tissue that covers it.

Treatment begins with medication that is meant to reduce pressure in the brain. Surgery may be used to close the source of an aneurysm.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Often called a “mini-stroke,” a TIA only blocks blood flow to the brain for less than five minutes. There’s no way to tell the difference between a TIA and a major stroke while it is occurring. A TIA is a warning sign for future major strokes.

Stroke Symptoms

If stroke symptoms are observed, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech or confusion: Someone suffering from a stroke may have difficulty speaking or comprehending what is being said to them.
  • Paralysis on one side of the body: The numbness or paralysis may occur in the face, arms, or legs.
  • Blurry vision: Vision in one or both eyes may suddenly become blurry or dark. Some people see double.
  • A severe headache: An extremely intense headache may suddenly occur along with dizziness, or even vomiting.

A quick test to check for stroke symptoms can be remembered with the acronym “BEFAST”:

  • Balance: Strokes can affect a person’s balance.
  • Eyes: Sudden vision loss can be a side of stroke.
  • Face: If the person smiles and one side droops, a stroke may be occurring.
  • Arms: Raise both arms overhead. If one arm lowers or drops, this can be a sign of a stroke.
  • Speech: Have the person try to repeat a phrase. If the speech is slurred, or just seems “off,” it could be a symptom of a stroke.
  • Time: In terms of treatment, time is critical. Call 911 at once.

What Causes a Stroke?

The best way to prevent a stroke is simply by living a healthy lifestyle. Diet and exercise are key. Additional steps you can take to reduce your risk of stroke include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Exercising regularly for at least 30 minutes, four times per week.
  • Avoiding tobacco products.
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation.
  • Managing diabetes (if applicable).
  • Keeping blood pressure under control.
  • Seeking treatment for sleep apnea (if applicable).

Recovering From a Stroke

Rehabilitation will begin as soon as possible following a stroke. Once the patient is stable in the hospital, therapy will begin. After the patient is released from the hospital, the rehabilitation process will continue. The goal of the process is to restore as much physical and cognitive function as possible. Some options for rehabilitation include:

  • Inpatient therapy
  • Home therapy
  • Outpatient therapy after returning home
  • Long-term care facility with specialist nursing care

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