Strokes can happen to anyone in any age group. It is most prevalent in senior citizens due to many age related health issues. A stroke can be life threatening. We must stay vigilant for any signs of stroke in our loved ones and ourselves.
A stroke can happen very quickly or can be preceded by small TIA’s (Transient Ischemic Attacks) or mini strokes. With a TIA, the symptoms may appear similar to a stroke, but pass quickly. Usually disappearing within a half hour. They don’t leave outward signs of damage. Having said that, it is important to understand, a TIA can be a precursor to a major stroke. It is vital not to ignore the symptoms. A TIA should be reason to get to a doctor quickly.
The most common cause of stroke is high blood pressure. High blood pressure should not be taken lightly. It is important to see a doctor and control our blood pressure with weight loss and medications.
Another cause of strokes is Atrial Fibrillation. This is a condition where the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of producing a strong muscular contraction of the upper part of the heart. The heart suffering from “afib” isn’t pumping the blood around the body correctly, leaving an opportunity for the blood to pool causing a clot. This clot can become dislodge and flow with the blood stream until it lodges in the brain causing a stroke. A person experiencing AF has 7 times the chance of stroke. A person with chronic AF can be given blood thinning drugs such as Coumadin or Plavix.
It is important when suffering a stroke, the patient should immediately be transported to an emergency room of a hospital. This person should never try to drive themselves to the hospital. If a person suffers a stroke, it is imperative for them to be treated within the first 3 hours of onset. Most strokes can be reversed if treated within this time period.
Since this is such a life threatening situation, what are the stroke indicators we should be watching for? How will we know if a stroke is happening?
1. Ask them to smile. Watch to see if their smile droops on one side. Sometimes, Bell’s Palsy, which is not a stroke can cause paralysis in facial muscles. It’s not a stroke, but only a doctor can tell for certain. Don’t risk it….seek an emergency room stat!
2. It can come dress as a speech problem. All of a sudden they aren’t making any sense, or they can find the words for common everyday things. Ask the person to say a simple sentence, such as “it’s raining outside”. If this simple sentence isn’t spoken coherently, time for transport to an ER.
3. You may notice a change in their face. Their eye or lip may, suddenly, droop on one side of their body. Be watchful for sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially if it happens on one side of the body. Ask your loved one to raise both arms, at the same time. Since a stroke can cause weakness or paralysis on either side, one arm may not want to raise with the other.
4. Ask them to stick our their tongue. If the tongue is crooked or goes to one side or the other, it could indicate stroke.
5. Your loved one may experience a sudden onset or complain about feeling dizzy. They may have a loss of balance or coordination. Many times, a stroke can be cloaked in the guise of a fall or a near fall. The person can have a small stroke and loses their balance. Most often, they don’t know why they fell. Dad’s strokes were always preceded with bouts of dizziness.
6. Watch for a sudden change in vision. Complaints of blurriness and/or difficulty seeing out of either or both eyes.
7. A loved one may complain about a severe headache for no known reason. Don’t give your loved one an aspirin. If the stroke is from a hemorrhage instead of a clot, giving an aspirin will only make the bleed in the brain worse and can cause permanent damage. Only an MRI can determine the cause and location of a stroke.
Strokes can effect people differently. When Dad had one of his strokes, he lost bladder control. Before we noticed any of the other symptoms, we noticed he had wet the chair.
I know emergency room visits aren’t any fun. I have sat for many, many hours in the ER with each one of my beloved aging senior citizens. It can take hours to receive the results of test. ER visits seem to be unavoidable as our loved ones age.
Strokes can happen quickly. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if your loved one has experienced a stroke. It’s always best to keep in mind, as the old quote says, “it is better to be safe than sorry!” A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t know, then go.
- What are the Warning Signs of a Stroke? (donthaveastroke.com)
- Will blood thinning therapy reduce my risk of stroke? (zocdoc.com)
- Mini-stroke “doubles heart attack risk” (news.bioscholar.com)
- Mini-stroke doubles risk of heart attack (eurekalert.org)
- Something different- Warning signs of a stroke (xeniagreekmuslimah.wordpress.com)
- Management of atrial fibrillation based on guidelines – part II (cardiophile.org)
- What is a Stroke (donthaveastroke.com)
- ‘Mini Strokes’ Linked to Doubled Heart Attack Risk: Study (health.usnews.com)