Stroke Symptoms 101

Stroke Symptoms 101

Life after a stroke is not easy for the victim. It is even more difficult for family members and loved ones who are assisting in the recovery process. The most important step to surviving a stroke is to arm yourself with information.

Stroke is a major health problem in the world. It is our third leading cause of death, and the leading cause of adult disability - approximately 1/3 recover fully, 1/3 recover partially, 1/3 do not recover at all after their stroke: 10% of victims die soon after stroke. The number of admissions to hospitals for stroke has been increasing steadily, approximately one every hour. Although many may perceive stroke as a disease that only affects the older population, do know that it is something that may affect the young too, including teenagers. The good news is, stroke is preventable.

What is Stroke?

Stroke occurs when a part of the brain is deprived of blood supply because the blood vessel (artery) supplying that part is blocked or burst. A blocked vessel causes an "ischemic stroke" or "infarct", while a burst vessel causes a "hemorrhagic stroke".

Who are at risk?

Ageing, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and smoking cause thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to "ischemic" stroke. Hypertension, smoking and excessive alcohol intake can also cause weakening of the arteries, leading to hemorrhagic stroke. An irregular heartbeat called "atrial fibrillation" leads to blood clots forming in the heart that may then escape into the brain arteries and thus lead to a special type of ischemic stroke called "embolic stroke". Sometimes, the symptoms of stroke disappear completely within 24 hours - this is called a "transient ischemic attack (TIA)"

Stroke : Risk Factors -

  • Ageing
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Smoking, including passive smoking
  • High blood cholesterol (blood fats)
  • Diabetes Mellitus (high blood sugar)
  • Atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat)
  • Heart disease
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Transient ischemic attack
  • Previous stroke

Stroke : Common Symptoms -

Symptoms a person develops depend on the size and location of the stroke. They may occur suddenly, or may develop slowly over time. Symptoms may be noted after waking up from sleep. The symptoms last more than 24 hours. Large strokes may cause drowsiness, coma or even death. Here are what to look out for:

  • Weakness and / or numbness of one side of the body
  • Slurred speech or language difficulties
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Double vision
  • Poor coordination, unsteadiness
  • Giddiness together with one of the above symptoms
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Drowsiness, coma

Steps to prevent stroke -

  • Detect and treat hypertension
  • Detect and treat high cholesterol
  • Detect and treat atrial fibrillation
  • Stop smoking
  • Take medications for TIAs
  • Detect and treat diabetes mellitus
  • If you take alcohol regularly, do not exceed two glasses a day
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle with a well-balanced diet and a regular exercise program

Stroke is a major cause of disability. Recovery in any form is a slow process. Most of the recovery occurs in the first 3-6 months. It can continue for many years after that, but at a much slower pace. Stroke may also come back again, there is a 5-15% risk per year.

The first thing you need to do is to be more aware about the illness, its causes, effects, prevention, and that it may come back again. Make sure that you or your loved one keeps all medical appointments, takes all prescribed medication, and attends therapy sessions as instructed. Next, you need to understand that not everyone recovers from stroke - this is the most difficult part to accept, as most victims cannot wait to be "normal again". Many will deny a strokes has occurred, get angry, or start blaming someone or themselves for the stroke - this is a natural reaction to a major life event. But slowly, with support from family and loved ones, things will seem better.

If you have had a stroke, try your best to regain your independence, keep active. Try to do as much as you can safely for yourself before you ask for help. If possible, try to return to the healthy lifestyle you had before your stroke. Go shopping, watch movies, go to the park. If your loved one has suffered a stroke, support him or her as much as you can. Understand that he or she is undergoing a tremendously stressful period. Help but do not over-pamper. Do also take some time for yourself. The fight against stroke is won only when everyone plays their part, especially the victim.

If you are at high risk, it is best that you see your doctor regularly for detection and treatment. Go for annual checkups if you are 40 years and above. Try your best to lead a healthy lifestyle, maintain a well-balanced diet and engage in a regular exercise program. Moderation is key. Taking the right approach may just save your life!

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