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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is a stroke?
A stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted. This can cause serious brain damage from a lack of oxygen. A stroke caused by a blood clot is called an ischemic stroke. A stroke caused by a burst or torn blood vessel is called an intracerebral hemorrhage, or a hemorrhagic stroke. When stroke symptoms go away completely within minutes to hours and do not cause damage, it is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a warning sign that you are at risk of soon having a stroke.
What are the warning signs of a stroke?
The word F.A.S.T. can help you remember and recognize warning signs of a stroke.
- F = Face: One side of the face droops.
- A = Arms: One arm starts to drop when both arms are raised.
- S = Speech: Speech is slurred or sounds different than usual.
- T = Time: A person who is having a stroke needs to be seen immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. Most medicines and treatments work best the sooner they are given.
What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?
The signs and symptoms will depend on the type of stroke you had and where it occurred:
- Loss of consciousness
- Vomiting or a severe headache
- Sudden weakness or paralysis in your arm, leg, or face
- Sudden trouble walking, speaking, or understanding words you hear or read
What increases my risk for a stroke?
- Older age
- A family history of stroke or certain heart conditions
- Diabetes, kidney disease, or high cholesterol
- Migraine headaches
- Atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or atherosclerosis
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, or using drugs such as cocaine
- Not enough physical activity, or obesity
- Sleep apnea or other sleep problems that affect your breathing
- In women, hormone replacement therapy or oral birth control pills
How is a stroke diagnosed?
- Blood tests may be used to check your overall health. Your blood's ability to clot will also be tested. The tests may include a check for diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk for a stroke.
- CT or MRI may be used to find the area of the brain that was affected by the stroke. The pictures may also show bleeding in your brain. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal objects in the MRI scanner can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
- Arteriography is a type of x-ray taken of your arteries to look for blood flow blockage and bleeding. Contrast liquid may be injected into your arteries to help the arteries show up on x-ray. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.
- A carotid ultrasound may show narrow or blocked carotid arteries. The carotid arteries are blood vessels in your neck that carry blood to your brain.
How is a stroke treated?
Treatment depends on the type of stroke you had:
- Medicines may be given to prevent blood clots, break up clots, or help your blood clot more easily. You may also need medicines to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
- Thrombolysis is a procedure used to break apart clots in an artery. A catheter is guided into the artery until it is near the clot. Medicine is put through the catheter that will help break apart the clot. The clot may be pulled out of the artery.
- Surgery may be used to remove a blood clot or to relieve pressure within your brain. You may also need surgery to remove plaque buildup from your carotid arteries.
What can I do to manage the effects of a stroke?
- Go to stroke rehabilitation (rehab) if directed. Rehab is a program run by specialists who will help you recover abilities you may have lost. Specialists include physical, occupational, and speech therapists. Physical therapists help you gain strength or keep your balance. Occupational therapists teach you new ways to do daily activities. Your therapy may include movements for everyday activities. An example is being able to raise yourself from a chair. A speech therapist helps you improve your ability to talk and swallow.
- Make your home safe. Remove anything you might trip over. Tape electrical cords down. Keep paths clear throughout your home. Make sure your home is well lit. Put nonslip materials on surfaces that might be slippery. An example is your bathtub or shower floor. A cane or walker may help you keep your balance as you walk.
What can I do to prevent a stroke?
Your healthcare providers will help you create goals for your recovery. The plan will include a time frame for you to reach your goals. The following can help you manage your health and prevent another stroke:
- Manage health conditions. A condition such as diabetes can increase your risk for a stroke. Control your blood sugar level if you have hyperglycemia or diabetes. Take your prescribed medicines and check your blood sugar level as directed.
- Check your blood pressure as directed. High blood pressure can increase your risk for a stroke. Follow your healthcare provider's directions for controlling your blood pressure.
- Do not use nicotine products or illegal drugs. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause blood vessel damage. Nicotine and illegal drugs both increase your risk for a stroke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke or use drugs and need help to quit. E- cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about alcohol. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure. The recommended limit is 2 drinks in a day for men and 1 drink in a day for women. Do not binge drink or save a week's worth of alcohol to drink in 1 or 2 days. Limit weekly amounts as directed by your provider.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar. Eat foods that are high in potassium, such as potatoes and bananas. A dietitian can help you create healthy meal plans.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight. He or she can help you create small goals if you have a lot of weight to lose.
- Exercise as directed. Exercise can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar levels. Healthcare providers will help you create exercise goals. They can also help you make a plan to reach your goals. For example, you can break exercise into 10 minute periods, 3 times in the day. Find an exercise that you enjoy. This will make it easier for you to reach your exercise goals.
- Manage stress. Stress can raise your blood pressure. Find new ways to relax, such as deep breathing or listening to music.
What do I need to know about depression after a stroke?
Talk to your healthcare provider if you have depression that continues or is getting worse. Your provider may be able to help treat your depression. Your provider can also recommend support groups for you to join. A support group is a place to talk with others who have had a stroke. It may also help to talk to friends and family members about how you are feeling. Tell your family and friends to let your healthcare provider know if they see any signs of depression:
- Extreme sadness
- Avoiding social interaction with family or friends
- A lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Trouble sleeping
- Low energy levels
- A change in eating habits or sudden weight gain or loss
Where can I find support and more information?
- National Stroke Association
9707 E. Easter Lane
Centennial , CO 80112
Phone: 1- 800 - 787-6537
Web Address: http://www.stroke.org
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:
- You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
- Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
- Weakness in an arm or leg
- Confusion or difficulty speaking
- Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
- You have a seizure.
- You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
When should I call my doctor?
- Your blood sugar level or blood pressure is higher or lower than usual.
- You have trouble swallowing.
- You have trouble having a bowel movement or urinating.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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Learn more about Stroke
Micromedex® Care Notes
- Brain Stem Infarction
- Effects Of A Stroke
- Intracerebral Hemorrhage
- Ischemic Stroke
- Left Hemispheric Stroke
- Right Hemispheric Stroke
- Stroke In Children