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Some Facts You Need to Know About Strokes

Updated on February 2, 2012
A stroke can occur in several areas of the brain.
A stroke can occur in several areas of the brain. | Source

A stroke is a matter of life or death. Did you know that according to the National Stroke Association 80% of strokes are preventable? That's right. There are ways to prevent a life-altering stroke from even occurring. But taking preventive measures means taking a proactive approach to your health – and your life.

Just What is a Stroke?

In simple terms, hearts have heart attacks, and brains have stroke attacks. Poor circulation -- from its many causes -- can lead to a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain abruptly stops. According to the American Chiropractic Association, the brain is then unable to cope with a lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by this ischemia condition.

Its cells start to immediately die off. This brain cell death starts in the area where the stroke occurred and then spreads according to the severity of the damage and the speed of treatment.

As a major organ of the nervous system, brain damage results in further nervous system damage, including muscle weakness, mood changes, slurred speech and paralysis.

FAST – Act Fast to Help a Stroke Victim

Only 1 in 5 stroke victims display apparent signs of a stroke. This means that the majority of stroke victims do not know they are having a stroke. This why acting fast is so important.

But FAST also stands for the four signs to check for in a person you suspect is suffering from a stroke. FAST stands for face, arm, speech and test. What does this mean, and how does it work?

“Face” reminds you to look at the face of the stroke victim. Does it look normal, or does a part of it seem to droop, especially around the mouth and the eyes? Can he feel his face? Numbness is a sure sign of a stroke, paralyzing some facial nerves. Look to see if these signs are isolated to one side of the body – another stroke indicator.

“Arm” tests the simultaneous movement of the arms. Tell the stroke victim to raise both arms above his head. The sign to look for is the inability to raise both of them to the same height.

“Speech” emphasizes that this faculty becomes compromised during a stroke. Someone who spoke clearly before the stroke soon finds his speech slowed and slurred. He is unable to say short statements and speaks with much difficulty.

“Test” concludes the stroke signs' test. For any or all of these findings, call 911 or take the stroke victim to the emergency room immediately.

Another Acronym - ICE

"In Case of Emergency" -- this is the meaning of "ICE." This is a useful tool for someone who lives alone or is away from others during a stroke. The best way to use this acronym is to put the number of the person you want contacted if anything happens to you, with it in your cell phone. Keep it written as your emergency contact in your daily planner, phone book, in the car and on the refrigerator. Michigan State University Controller's Office states the benefits of using ICE, "One of the difficulties facing emergency services personnel is how to locate next of kin for (or obtain other necessary information about) a victim who is unconscious, dead, or otherwise unable to respond to questions."

My Observation of a Stroke Victim

Strokes manifest differently in people, and no one series of events indicates what will happen the next time. One stroke victim arrived at a hospital's emergency room with a headache that would not go away. He speech was clear, and he was walking and moving about normally.

While the nurses filled out his paperwork, he became nauseous. So they gave him a pan – and he used it. The man then went through a series of quick transitions, and you had to keep your eye on him, otherwise it was easy to miss some steps.

He became disoriented. He had pain but was unable to explain it. As he walked, he started to lose movement on one side of his body – from head to toe. His speech left. The nurses were moving fast to keep up, and they helped him to a stretcher. By the time it was all over, he no longer had movement and feeling on the left side of his body – the stroke was on the right side of his brain.

Strokes can happen very fast, and in this man's case, it was good that he was already at the hospital. This is important for anyone suspected of having stroke symptoms – go to the emergency room immediately because the best, most-effective care and treatment is in the early stages of a stroke.

How Does a Person Regain their Muscle Strength After a Stroke?

Some people may never regain their strength. Others may make some progress but still suffer from permanent damage to their brains, nerves and muscle function. Still others make full recoveries.

What is rehabilitation? For some, regaining muscle usage on a temporarily paralyzed side requires rigorous physical therapy. Why? Because the experience sets the muscles and nerves back to the beginning – as if they've never used them.

Amongst the many interesting factors of stroke recovery is the way occupational therapy uses educational toys to develop gross and fine motor skills. Recovering stroke victims engage in long processes of building muscle tone and coordination with hands-on tools that eventually help them regain their independence. But recovery is a long, one-small-step-at-a-time process, post-stroke depression occurs. Having a stroke and depression is very common, and this is why support and encouragement to keep trying is important for each stroke victim to have.

Something to Consider

Help yourself and help someone else in stroke prevention. A stroke's damage is unpredictable and its effects last a very long time, even with a successful recovery. Any person in that state would face many challenges – physically, mentally, socially and economically. Prevention is by far most worthy of the effort than suffering through the injuries and healing.

Are the eyes or mouth drooping?
Can they lift both arms evenly?
Is the speak slowed or slurred?
One or more signs - call 9-1-1!!!
Remember this acronym to act fast and help a stroke victim.


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