Stroke FAQ

What Is Stroke And How It Affects YOU…

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Stroke Frequently Asked Questions
Has stroke affected your life? If it has, you want answers. This frequently asked questions guide will answer some of the more common questions caregivers, patients, survivors and family members have when facing stroke. Use the information in this free bonus to help you address stroke in your life and help prevent future stroke from destroying your life, or that of a loved one. Q. What is a stroke? The American Stroke Association, working with the American Heart Association, define stroke as a type of heart disease that affects the brain and arteries in the body. Typically a stroke is an acute condition that occurs when a clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, or when a blood vessel ruptures and then prevents blood and oxygen from getting to the brain and supplying nutrients to the brain. A stroke can result in many symptoms and much damage to the brain, depending on its severity. When a clot interrupts the blood flow and oxygen flow to the brain within a vessel, doctors refer to this as an “ischemic stroke.” If a vessel in the brain or body ruptures, and blood leaks into the brain many refer to this as a “hemorrhagic” stroke. Most survivors suffer an ischemic stroke. Less than 20 percent of victims suffer a hemorrhagic stroke. Q. What are transient strokes? Transient ischemic or “mini” strokes are minor or minimal strokes that often serve as a sign that a major stroke is pending. They result from minor or short-term obstructions of oxygen, nutrients and blood to the brain. A full stroke may follow a month after such an attack or after a series of these mini attacks. These mini attacks may also precede a full stroke by just hours, which is one reason early intervention is so important and critical to one’s survival. Q. Are there any warning signs of a stroke? TIA’s or transient ischemic attacks often serve as a warning sign of a stroke. The most common symptoms associated with these include:   Numbness and tingling or weakness in any of the limbs or on one side of the body. Acute confusion that is intermittent.

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Difficulty speaking or understanding clearly what someone is saying, or appearing “dazed” or “confused.” Difficulty seeing or sudden blindness that passes. Feelings of dizziness or poor coordination. A very severe headache, one many refer to as “the worst headache of their lives” that comes on suddenly.

The sooner you recognize these signs and seek help, the less likely you are to suffer severe side-effects of a stroke. Patients treated early often experience very high recovery rates and enjoy a good quality of life following a stroke. Some people do not want to see their doctor for fear that nothing is wrong and they will waste time. Never feel this way. It is always better to be safe than to feel sorry. If you suspect something is wrong, get it checked out immediately. Q. Can I prevent a stroke? Early detection is critical to prevention, as is a good and healthy lifestyle. While some strokes simply happen, there are steps people can take to prevent them. This is especially true of patients who have suffered a stroke and want to prevent a stroke from recurring. Most patients who have had a stroke will be at greater risk for having another stroke. Some treatments that can help prevent recurrent strokes include:    Antiplatelets – these are substances like aspirin that prevent the blood from clotting. Anticoagulants – products including warfarin that help reduce the body’s ability to produce clots. Angioplasty – In this procedure a surgeon will implant a steel screen or stent into a patient that may already suffer from heart disease to reduce the risk of artery clogging fat build up, which can slow the supply of blood to the brain. Surgical procedures – for patients that have experienced a hemorrhagic stroke a surgeon may place a structure at the base of the neck to help prevent an aneurysm or leaking of blood into the brain.

Q. How many people have strokes in any given year? Statistics provided by the National Institutes of Health and other organizations including the American Heart Association suggest that over 700,000 people are affected by a stroke every year. Nearly 200,000 may die or suffer debilitating consequences. Stroke is the #3 killer in the United States, with only heart disease and cancer ranking above it. Throughout the world the incidence of stroke is much higher. Many factors contribute to one’s risk of stroke, including hereditary factors, lifestyle factors and independent health factors. Q. My partner had a stroke. It has been very difficult for me to cope. I feel like I don’t have anyone I can talk to that can relate. I don’t want to place any more burdens on my partner who has already gone through so much. SUPPORT is an important part of anyone’s journey, whether that support comes in the way of patient support for stroke survivors or support for caregivers and family members. It is often difficult to cope with the changes that stroke brings about in one’s life. Stroke does not just impact the way the stroke survivor lives, but also the way members of his or her family live. What can you do to feel better? The best step you can take is to find a supportive group of people to lean on in times where you need support and assistance. You can find support through local community groups or online. One great place to connect with other friends and family members of stroke survivors is: http://www.americanheart.org. Here you can look for the AHA Stroke Connection, or call them at 1-800-553-6321 for direct assistance and subscribe to a support group and magazine committed to improving the lives of survivors and their families. Another place to look for help is the National Family Caregivers Association, at http://www.nfcacares.org where you will find people able to direct you to the resources you need to find answers to your questions. If you feel comfortable talking with your own doctor (and you should) you can ask your doctor for a recommendation to a local support group. Family counseling or independent therapy may also help you cope during the tough times that follow a stroke. A qualified therapist can help you and your partner cope with feelings of loss and confusion. Q. How do I know if I am at risk for a stroke? Anyone can have a stroke, though individuals over age 50 are more at risk than their younger counterparts. In general, males are also more likely to be at risk for stroke than females as are individuals with underlying health conditions, including

high blood pressure, diabetes or a history of stroke or heart disease. You can do many things to reduce your risk of stroke even if you fall into these risk categories, including eating well and exercising regularly. You should also avoid smoking and make sure you become aware of the primary signs and symptoms of stroke, as early intervention is critical to a good recovery. Q. What should I look for if I suspect a stroke? Usually a patient has some warning signs of stroke before they have one. Warning signs may include visual changes or blurry vision, numbness and tingling in one or more of the appendages and hands, weakness of muscles, slight facial droop or a very severe headache. Post these signs somewhere clearly where anyone can see them so they too know the early warning signs of a stroke. A transient attack may include any of these symptoms that last for several minutes to half an hour. Immediate medical attention is necessary. Many people will suffer a full-blown stroke after experiencing these symptoms. If you have other symptoms, including pain in your chest or pain that radiates down one arm, you may be experiencing other cardiovascular signs signaling another problem (like a pending heart attack). Whenever you experience acute symptoms that seem out of ordinary, you should consult with a qualified medical provider as soon as possible. Q. What will the doctor do if he or she suspects a stroke? Typically a doctor will monitor a patient and perform neurological tests to assess whether any damage has occurred. If there is evidence a person experienced an attack then the doctor will look to find the cause and location of the problem (like a blood clot) so they can then treat it as soon as possible. Some examples of tests a physician might order include a CT scan that takes X-ray pictures of various parts of the body and can record the exact location of an attack. MRI’s are also helpful for providing images of any clots or bleeding that may occur in the brain. Q. Does suffering a stroke mean living with a permanent disability? Many patients endure disabilities following a stroke. Recent trends however and statistics prove that many patients improve following rehabilitation. Others may respond well and heal relatively well with very little intervention. Much of healing and the extent to which one suffers disability depends on one’s personal health and wellness before a stroke. In the worst circumstances, a stroke may result in permanent disability including paralysis, balance problems, communication problems and weakness or muscle pain.

Q. What new treatments are available for stroke survivors? There are many new treatments in development for stroke survivors. The goal of most treatments is to improve the quality of life of the survivor and increase their chances of independent living. Currently new drug therapies are being tested to help reduce the risk of stroke by removing or dissolving clots in safer ways. Other treatments including use of Botox, commonly thought of as a “cosmetic” treatment, may help reduce muscular spasticity experienced by stroke survivors. Researchers are constantly seeking out new ways to prevent strokes from resulting in permanent damage by extending the amount of time they have between symptoms and an attack to treat patients correctly. Q. Can children suffer from a stroke? Anyone can suffer a stroke. While strokes are more common in adults, they are not uncommon in young adults or children. The causes of stroke in children are often different from the causes in adults. Children for example are more likely to suffer from stroke resulting from a congenital abnormality, or from infection with various childhood diseases including varicella. Some studies suggest many factors contribute to a child’s risk including mutations of certain genes. Blood clotting disorders are another example of a risk factor that may result in a stroke in a child. For more information about children and stroke visit the Children’s Stroke Association, located at http://www.chasa.org There is also an online support group available for families whose children suffered from stroke and similar disorders available here: http://www.pediatricstroke.org No matter who you are or how old you are, the best defense against stroke is information. You have begun your journey right here, right now, today by learning more about stroke. Continue your journey by reading “Life After Stroke” and learning as much as you can about stroke and stroke prevention from the National Institutes of Health, The American Heart Association and the National Stroke Association. As with any disease, knowledge is power. The more you learn about stroke, the better prepared you will be to combat and face it should it strike your family. Be sure to look at our book “Life After a Stroke” on our website http://www.afterastroke.info/book.html