Get Well Wednesday: What You Need To Know About Strokes

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WHAT EXACTLY IS A STROKE?

It is a neurological disease that occurs when an artery in the brain or going to brain gets clogged or breaks, this causes blood flow to an area of brain to be cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die.

When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost, and the person may experience weakness, speech difficulties, walking difficulties, visual changes and dizziness. There are two main types ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic is caused when a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot and hemorrhage occurs when the blood vessel leaks or breaks and you get bleeding in the brain.

WHAT DOES THE ACRONYM F.A.S.T. MEAN?

It is an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. It also reaffirms the urgency of acting as quickly as possible when you think you or someone around you is having a stroke. The acronym stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency services.

Facial drooping: Usually one side of the face is drooping and hard to move. This can be recognized by a crooked smile.

Arm weakness: The inability to raise one’s arm fully

Speech difficulties: An inability or difficulty to understand or produce speech. Speech can be slurred and/or incomprehensible and may come out as a word salad, or the person may not be able to speak at all.

Time: If any of the symptoms above are showing, call the emergency services or go to the hospital as soon as possible.

The quicker a stroke patient gets treatment, the better the chances of survival and complete recovery.

ARE STROKES PREVENTABLE?

Yes, most strokes are preventable, in fact up to 80% are likely preventable. Eating habits, physical activity, smoking and drinking are examples of lifestyle stroke risk factors. Avoid foods high in cholesterol, fat and sodium. Stop smoking and keep alcohol intake to moderate. These lifestyle changes will decrease your chances of stroke.

In addition, managing your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol will also decrease your risks of stroke.

Having atrial fibrillation greatly increases your risk factor for stroke. Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which you have an irregular heartbeat. Controlling the rate and taking a blood thinner can help to lower your risk of stroke. Your doctor can diagnose and treat this condition.

WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE SURVIVED A STROKE?

  1. Take your medication as prescribed
  2. Participate in physical therapy and exercise when cleared to do so
  3. Be patient and know that recovery takes time
  4. Stop smoking — it doubles risk for another stroke
  5. Eat a healthy diet and control your blood sugar. People with diabetes are four times as likely to have a stroke
  6. Manage high blood pressure – high blood pressure is the most important modifiable risk factor for stroke
  7. Manage high cholesterol
  8. Manage atrial fibrillation

Dr. Ashe answers your Text Tom questions below:

My mom had a “mini stroke” can you talk about this, too please?

A mini-stroke is known as a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). TIAs occur when the artery is temporary blocked, which causes transient or temporary symptoms. It can be a precursor to a stroke. It is very important to look at your risk factors for stroke and treat to prevent future TIAs or future strokes.

Is an aneurysm the same as a stroke?

An aneurysm is ballooning of a weak portion in a blood vessel that can enlarge. Some are asymptotic and do not cause bleeding. Others can cause headaches as they enlarge. If aneurysm ruptures, it will bleed and cause a hemorrhagic stroke (stroke from a bleed).

Can you tell me why I can’t get my blood pressure down and it’s been over 20 years?

There are several factors that affect your blood pressure. These include your kidney function, diet, heart function and the arteries themselves. You may need to adjust your diet, adjust your medications and see a heart or kidney specialist.

I have a pressure pain on the right rear side of my head that hurts on and off. Is that cause for alarm??

Headaches can signal a variety of illnesses or can just be simple headaches. If they occur frequently or with other symptoms such as visual changes, dizziness, or affect your balance, you should see your doctor.

I have high blood pressure and diabetes. I have pills to take and a lot of times I get bad headaches and it takes time to recoup, almost like a drunk feel. Should I have my doctor

do a scan to see if it’s a problem or as they usually do, put me on a different drug?

You may be experiencing side effects from your medications or from your diabetes or elevated blood pressure. Check your blood sugar regularly to ensure that it’s not too high and just as important, not too low. Definitely go see your doctor. In addition, you and your doctor may need to schedule your medications differently. If you experience symptoms, you shouldn’t take all of the medications at one time.

I found out that Bell’s palsy have the same face symptoms as a stroke. Is that a mistake that happens a lot?

Bell’s palsy is an illness that is caused by a paralysis of one of the nerves in the face. It is often mistaken for a stroke. It is less serious than a stroke and most people recover from it, but you should see your doctor right away.

My 60-year-old sister had a stroke the day after Thanksgiving 2016. It impacted her right side and she lost use of her right leg and arm and her ability to walk. She is receiving OT and PT but has yet to walk. What is the recovery period from the stroke so that she can walk again and use her right arm?

Recovery time for a stroke varies greatly and is largely dependent on the individual, the location of the stroke and how much of the area was affected. It also depends on how soon the stroke was treated and the age of the patient.  he greatest portion of recovery within the first three to six months after the stroke. You can improve after that time, but much less so.

At the age of 37, I had a stroke. I was evaluated by physicians at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville Florida. At that time, I was told that I had 2 previous strokes. So by the age of 37, I’d had three strokes. I do not have high blood pressure. I do not have diabetes.

Through multiple tests and the scans, my cardiologist and a neurologist diagnosed me with patent foramen ovale. This is a condition where I have a hole in my heart. Blood clots form, travel to my brain, and resulted in strokes.

It is common for patient with heart conditions such as yours as well as atrial fibrillation to get strokes because of clot formation.

I had a stroke when I was 5. I just turned 38 and sometimes I feel the same weakness on my left side that I felt on my right side. Should I be concerned or am I just paranoid?

If you experience focal weakness, you should have it checked out. People who have had strokes in the past are at a greater risk for having another.

Dr. Lisa Ashe serves as the medical director of Be Well Medical Group – a leading concierge medicine and wellness group currently serving the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia metro areas. She’s a board-certified internal medicine physician.

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