Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Strokes: Signs and Symptoms

Strokes cause long-term disability and death. 

Edith suddenly felt odd as she sat at the table for lunch.  The glass in her hand slipped from her fingers and everything looked blurry.  A small trickle of the water she just sipped dribbled from the corner of her mouth. She tried to speak but her words slurred and came out wrong.  Edith was having a stroke.

Fortunately Edith’s family realized something was terribly wrong and got her to the hospital in time. 

Strokes kill close to 800,000 people each year and is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. It is also the leading cause of grave long-term disability. 

What is a Stroke
A stroke takes place when the brain doesn’t get enough blood.  When a Stroke is happening, the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, starving the brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to whither and die. This happens either due to the blood flow being blocked by a clot or because an artery feeding the brain has burst.  The lack of blood flow to the brain is immediately evident and requires quick intervention to prevent permanent damage or even death.

Risk Factors
Risk for having a Stroke increases with age, but it is also affected by other factors:
  • High blood pressure - Having Hypertension increases the risk factor of          experiencing Stroke by 4 to 6 times.
  • Diabetes - People with Diabetes often have damaged blood vessels in the brain and so have a 3 times greater risk of having a Stroke.
  • Heart Disease - Irregular heartbeat or damaged heart can contribute to having a Stroke.
  • Abnormal Cholesterol - Having too much the “bad” LDL cholesterol or too little of HDL “good” cholesterol can also trigger Stroke.
  • Obesity - Being overweight can contribute to all the other risk factors making Stroke all the more likely to strike.

Symptoms of Stroke
It is more likely that a bystander will recognize the Stroke than the person experiencing one.  Knowing what the symptoms are and what to do is very important as every second counts when getting treatment.  A Stroke is evident by the victim’s inability to speak, a awkward facial expression and cognitive confusion.  Secondary symptoms may include dizziness, loss of balance and sudden onset of a headache.  Some people experience blurred vision on one or both eyes, a weakness on one side of the body and nausea.  Some people suddenly experience trouble walking.

This acronym can help recognizing a Stroke as it is happening.
  • F – FACE  Ask for a smile.  Check if the face is drooping on one side.
  • A – ARMS  Ask to raise their arms.  Check if one arm drops down.
  • S – SPEECH  Ask to repeat a simple phrase and check for slurred or odd speech.
  • T – TIME  If any of the signs are evident, call 911 immediately. 

Getting to the hospital for treatment is important.  The goal is to get a diagnosis within an hour of experiencing a Stroke and treatment within 3 hours so to avoid complications and long-term disabilities.  

Kate McCarthy is Director of Operations for HomeAid Health Care which provides services for the elderly who wish to remain safe and independent at home.  HomeAid is sister company to MedAid Staffing, which supplies trained Caregivers to local facilities, and Prairie Home Assisted Living which has served the physical, spiritual, mental and health needs of their residents since 1999.  Together the three companies provide comprehensive care for the elderly in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin.