Stroke: What You Need To Know

Dr. Kumkum Modwel recommends:

Strokes are among the leading causes of death in the United States, affecting hundreds of thousands of people each year. Have you talked with your primary care physician to discuss your risk of stroke?

Learning how to identify strokes and respond accordingly can save your life or the life of someone you care about. The following are the warning signs of a stroke, as well as details on treatments and rehabilitation after a stroke.

What Is a Stroke?

A stroke — often described as a heart attack of the brain — happens when there is an interruption to the brain’s blood supply or when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. As a result, brain cells begin to die from lack of oxygen and nourishment. There can also be bleeding in or around the brain. A block or plug in the brain’s blood flow is known as an ischemic stroke. A burst blood vessel happens during a hemorrhagic stroke.

Warning signs of a stroke may include the following:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness, particularly on only one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, including difficulty speaking or comprehending others’ speech
  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden problems walking, including dizziness, balance problems or lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe, unexplained headache

Time is of the essence, so if you or a loved one experiences any of the above warning signs, call 911 immediately so emergency responders can start life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital. Also, always be sure to carry your current medication list in your wallet or handbag to avoid dangerous drug interactions.

What Is a TIA?

Often referred to as a mini-stroke, a transient ischemic attack (TIA), occurs when there is a temporary blockage in the brain’s blood supply. These episodes don’t cause permanent damage, but they should be taken seriously. TIAs can actually forewarn a full-blown stroke. Symptoms of TIA mimic that of an ischemic stroke. However, the symptoms may last anywhere from one minute to five minutes and then fade away.

If you experience the signs of a TIA, call your primary care physician as soon as possible, and if you can’t be directly connected to your physician, then call 911. A thorough evaluation is important so that your doctor can provide intervention and possibly prevent a full-blown stroke.

How Are Strokes Treated?

There is a three-fold treatment process for strokes: preventative methods, therapy immediately following a stroke and rehabilitation afterwards. Prevention efforts to minimize your risk of stroke or improve quality of life after stroke may involve relieving hypertension and/or high cholesterol, controlling weight, quitting smoking, improving diabetes management and increasing physical activity levels.

Acute therapies also exist to dissolve blood clots or stop a blood hemorrhage while a stroke is happening.

Life After Stroke

Rehabilitation therapies after a stroke have improved over the past several decades. The primary focus is on enhancing quality of life and addressing disabilities brought on by the stroke. Disabilities may involve ambulation problems, speech or comprehension difficulties, changes in vision, and personality or behavioral changes. Stroke survivors may have to relearn a variety of daily living skills. Still, advances in technology have significantly improved the prognosis for life after stroke.

To determine if your current lifestyle puts you at risk for stroke or TIA, call us at (203) 270-1077 to schedule an appointment with your CHA physician.