Worldwide, stroke is the second leading cause of death. According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people suffer from strokes each year.
A stroke occurs when blood flow, and thus oxygen flow, to the brain is stopped. In some cases a person may not know that he or she is having a stroke. It is imperative to get to the hospital as quickly as possible,. Here are warning signs provided by the National Stroke Association’s Act FAST campaign:
- Face – When he/she smiles does one side of the face droop?
- Arms – Can he/she raise both arms without one drifting downward?
- Speech – When asked to speak is his/her speech slurred?
- Time – If you observe these signs, call 911 immediately.
Other possible symptoms include:
- A sudden headache that gets worse when changing positions, bending or coughing
- Change in alertness (e.g. sleepiness, unconsciousness)
- Loss of senses (e.g. difficulty hearing, tasting, seeing, feeling pain or pressure)
- Confusion or loss of memory
- Dizziness, vertigo or loss of coordination
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
Recovering from a stroke can be an emotional, frustrating process for both the patient and their loved ones. Stroke victims must overcome physical, cognitive and emotional challenges including:
- Loss of mobility, movement, or feeling in one or more parts of the body (e.g. nerve, joint, and/or muscle damage)
- Difficulty communicating and/or understanding language (e.g. aphasia)
- Problems thinking or focusing (e.g. memory problems, poor judgment)
- Difficulty swallowing, poor nutrition
- Bladder and bowel problems
Regardless of the severity of a stroke, take a proactive and informed approach to post-stroke care. While leaving the hospital setting can be daunting, the return home is a major, positive step in the recovery process.