According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. An individual’s risk of stroke increases with age, and the chance of having a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55. There are certain health conditions and lifestyle behaviors that can be managed to help lower your risk of stroke, and there are others – like genetics, age, race and gender – that we have less control over. The good news is that 80% of strokes are preventable and understanding your personal risk and making the changes that you do have control over will help decrease your chance of having a stroke.
Types of Strokes
A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of blood flow to any part of the brain. Also referred to as a “brain attack,” there are two types of strokes:
Another condition that bears stroke-like symptoms is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is commonly referred to as a “mini-stroke” and occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked for a short time. Symptoms include weakness on one side of the body, vision impairment and slurred speech and often resolve within 24 hours. A TIA may be a warning sign of a future stroke.
Knowing Your Risk
As we age, our arteries become narrower and are more apt to become clogged with fatty material, and this increases an individual’s risk of stroke. Age is a risk factor we have little control over. The same can be said for gender and family history. However, there are many risk factors that can be changed, treated or medically managed:
Related: Tips on Stroke Prevention
The first step to lowering your risk is knowing your risk. Consider the risk factors that you do have control over, assess the severity of your unique risks and schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss any concerns. Making regular health screenings a priority as we age will help with early detection of conditions that can lead to greater health problems.
Knowing the Symptoms and Acting F.A.S.T.
Knowing the common stroke symptoms and having a plan to quickly act can save a life and aide in the prevention of permanent damage. If you or a loved one has a history of strokes in your family and any of these stroke symptoms come on suddenly, call 911 immediately:
Time is critical in the treatment plans for stroke patients, and most treatments are only effective if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within 3 hours of the first symptom. With a stroke, every second counts, and acting F.A.S.T. can help prevent further damage to the brain:
Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.
Note the time when any symptoms first appear. This information helps health care providers determine the best treatment for each person. If the stroke symptoms go away after a few minutes, the attack may have been a TIA. While brief, this is still a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Stroke Treatment Options
Depending on the course of treatment needed, various healthcare settings will be considered by the treating doctor. Post-stroke rehabilitation helps a stroke patient relearn skills that are suddenly lost when part of the brain is damaged. The treatment can include physical, occupational and speech therapies, along with skilled nursing care, and can be offered in a facility or in the comfort of one’s own home.
Patients who no longer need hospital care but who still require inpatient nursing services and a rehabilitation program may be referred to short-term rehab services within a skilled nursing facility. Skilled nursing facilities, like the ones located at Concordia at Cabot, Concordia at Villa St. Joseph, Concordia of the South Hills and others throughout western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and in Tampa, Florida, also offer long-term care support for more extensive recovery needs.
Patients who need regular medical attention but have reasonable levels of mobility and cognitive abilities may be referred to home health services. Home health agencies like Concordia Visiting Nurses and Concordia-IRMC VNA offer physical, occupational and speech therapies, skilled nursing, family education, telehealth monitoring and even spiritual care to support every aspect of a stroke patient’s recovery.
Related: Coping with the Aftermath of Strokes
If you or a loved one has recently experienced a stroke, Concordia can help. Our various facility-based care levels and home and community services offer a variety of options to meet the patient where they are in their stroke recovery. Please contact us any time via our online contact form or by calling our administrative headquarters at 724-352-1571 to learn more about our full continuum of services.
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