A stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain stops.
If blood flow stops for longer than a few seconds that part of the brain is deprived of the oxygen it needs to live. If the situation persists brain cells in that area of the brain die causing permanent damage.
There are two major kinds of strokes: ischemic & hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are more common. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel supplying oxygen to the brain is blocked by a clot. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures causing blood to leak into the brain tissue.
There are 'risk factors' that make a person more susceptible to a stroke. They are:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- increasing age
- a family history of strokes
The chance of a stroke is higher in people who live unhealthy lifestyles. Being:
- overweight or obese
- drinking heavily
- eating too much fat and or salt
- taking birth control pills can also increase your chances of having a clot or a bleed. The risk is greatest in women who take BCP's, smoke and are > 35 yrs
Stroke symptoms usually develop suddenly with little or no warning; but not always. The symptoms depend on how severe the stroke is and what part of the brain it is affecting. The symptoms may include:
- change in alertness
- clumsiness/ dizziness/ loss of balance
- confusion or memory loss
- difficulty swallowing
- muscle weakness: face/arm/leg (usually only on one side)
- numbness/tingling (usually on only one side of the body)
- decreased vision/ double vision/ loss of vision
- trouble speaking or understanding what others are saying
A stroke is a medical emergency! It should... needs to be treated immediately. Call 911 or your local emergency number at the first signs of a stroke. Get to the hospital as quickly as possible.
Did you know that there is only a three hour window when considering 'clot-busting' treatment for a stroke? In some cases the window of treatment may be stretched to six hours but after that much more invasive options can only be considered for treatment... and they don't work for everybody.
To date most victims of 'stroke' are brought to the ER via private transportation. It is commonly an older person that family members had to 'talk' into coming. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of a stroke... call 911 right away. Allow the emergency personnel the opportunity to evaluate the situation and transport you or your loved to the hospital if necessary.
A stroke can be treated. A stroke can be resolved. A stroke can be avoided. Don't wait till it's too late! Seek emergency medical treatment at the very first signs of a stroke.
Joni Nowak RN/CCRN