May is Stroke Awareness Month

You’re at a restaurant with a friend and suddenly she begins slurring words and having trouble speaking. She has a sudden headache and can’t see well. She tries to stand up but falls back, saying she is dizzy. Would you wonder if this person is getting the flu, or is perhaps a little tipsy—or might you realize these are symptoms of a stroke?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, every 40 seconds, someone in the US has a stroke—that’s more than 800,000 Americans. Many people recover from their stroke, but over 133,000 die each year.

In honor of Stroke Awareness month, we want to participate in the National Stroke Association’s drive to expand awareness of the seriousness of stroke –and so we devote this month’s article to discussing this important topic.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the brain is deprived of blood. This can happen due to several causes:

  • A blood vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked by a clot. This type of incident is called anischemic stroke.
  • A weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. This type of incident is called a hemorrhagic stroke

Ischemic strokes are the most common and usually cause the least damage. Many people experience “mini-ischemic strokes” (called transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs for short), that are brief and temporary because the clot resolves itself within minutes or hours. However, TIAs are often a serious warning of an impending stroke that can be far more damaging. Up to 40 percent of all persons who experience a TIA will eventually have a full stroke within days or months. By contrast, hemorrhagic strokes are less common, but more deadly.

Either type of stroke can lead to serious and debilitating health problems, including numbness and strange sensations in the body, paralysis on one side of the body, problems with thinking and memory, loss of speech, and difficulty controlling and expressing emotions. These can last for months, years, or the rest of a person’s life.

Stroke Facts, Not Myths

There are many misconceptions about stroke that people everywhere need to better understand. Here are a few of the most important truths to counter those myths:

  • Strokes are not restricted to older adults; they can occur in people of all ages. In fact, about 25% of strokes happen to people younger than 65.
  • Women, not men, are more susceptible to stroke. More than 425,000 women suffer from a stroke each year, 55,000 more than men. Women also end up with greater disabilities after stroke than men.
  • African Americans have twice the stroke rate compared to Caucasians and are twice as likely to die from a stroke. Hispanics in the U.S. are more likely to suffer a stroke at a younger age than Caucasians.
  • Stroke are preventable; you can do many things to improve your risk of not having a stroke, including controlling your blood pressure, drinking alcohol in moderation, keeping your cholesterol low, eating a low sodium and low fat diet, and exercising regularly.
  • Strokes can be treated, especially if emergency help is called immediately. If you or someone you know seems to be having a stroke, call 9-1-1 without hesitation. It’s smarter to take action fast than to be wrong.

Available Resources

There are over 6 million people in the U.S. who have survived after having had a stroke. Depending on the severity, many stroke victims recover all or nearly all of their faculties. But there are also millions who have ended up with a disability that requires a family member or outside assistance to take care of them. They may need help dressing, walking, eating, toileting, and bathing. Even as they recover, someone may need to attend to them a few hours a day.

Family members are often a vital part of a stroke victim’s life and recovery process. But, as with any intensive caregiving situation, it often creates high levels of emotional, mental and physical stress on a family.

If you have a loved one at home recovering from a stroke, your local HomeWell agency would welcome the opportunity to consult with you about your family situation and how we might be able to help. Our staff of highly-qualified home care providers is experienced in working with stroke patients. They are trained to understand the challenges of strokes and will treat your loved one with compassion, patience, and respect. And they are also there to help you and your family members get the respite time you might need for yourselves.

Get Involved

We invite you to help spread the word about stroke, as too many Americans are still unaware of its causes, symptoms, dangers, and methods of prevention. The faster people recognize they or someone else is having a stroke, the more likely it is that its impact can be minimized.

By far the best source of education and awareness materials about stroke is The National Stroke Association. They have a great web site to help learn about stroke and promote awareness of it among family, friends, and co-workers.

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