Important advice on what to do if you have a stroke

Having had first hand experience of this ( you can read about it HERE ) you need a cool head to decide on what to do if you have a stroke as having one is like having a traffic jam in your brain. It happens when something disrupts the flow of blood to a part of your brain, similar to how a traffic jam can block the flow of cars on a road. In my case it was unexplained blurred vision when I looked into a mirror.

Here’s why it happens: Your brain needs a constant supply of blood to get oxygen and nutrients. If a blood vessel that supplies the brain gets blocked or bursts, it can lead to a stroke. Think of it like a pipe getting clogged or bursting, causing water to stop flowing or leak where it shouldn’t.

what to do if you have a stroke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A. TYPES OF STROKES

There are two main types of strokes:

  1. Ischemic Stroke: This is like a blockage in the brain’s blood highway. It occurs when a blood clot or fatty deposit (plaque) blocks a blood vessel, cutting off the blood supply to a part of the brain.
  2. Hemorrhagic Stroke: This is like a burst pipe in the brain. It happens when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing bleeding inside the brain. The pressure from the bleeding can damage brain cells.

B. DIAGNOSIS OF A STROKE

Doctors use several methods to diagnose strokes. These methods help them determine the type of stroke, its location, and the extent of damage. Here are the primary diagnostic tools and procedures:

  • Physical Examination: The doctor will start with a physical examination and review the patient’s medical history. They will ask about symptoms, risk factors, and the time of symptom onset. This information is crucial for determining treatment options.

what to do if you have a stroke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Neurological Examination: The doctor will conduct a neurological exam to assess the patient’s brain function. This may include checking reflexes, muscle strength, coordination, and sensory perception.
  • Imaging Tests:
    • CT Scan (Computed Tomography): This is often the first imaging test performed to determine if the stroke is caused by a clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic). It can also show the location and size of the stroke.
    • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): An MRI provides more detailed images of the brain and can help distinguish between different types of strokes. It’s particularly useful for detecting small strokes or those in specific brain regions.
  • Blood Tests: Blood tests can help identify certain risk factors for stroke, such as high cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and clotting disorders.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test records the electrical activity of the heart. It can help detect irregular heart rhythms (atrial fibrillation) that may contribute to stroke risk.
  • Carotid Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to create images of the carotid arteries in the neck. It helps assess if there is any narrowing or blockage of these arteries, which can increase the risk of stroke.
  • Cerebral Angiography: In some cases, a cerebral angiogram may be performed. It involves injecting contrast dye into blood vessels and taking X-ray images to visualize the blood vessels in the brain. This can help identify aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations, or other vascular abnormalities that may lead to stroke. This was one of the procedures that I had done after having been diagnosed with a stroke.
  • Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap): Although less common, a lumbar puncture may be done in certain situations to analyze the cerebrospinal fluid for signs of bleeding or infection.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE): This specialized ultrasound test can provide a closer look at the heart’s structures, especially if there is suspicion of a heart-related cause of stroke.

Here is a YouTube video which explains what doctors look for in different scans to determine whether a stroke has taken place.

The combination of these diagnostic tests and assessments helps doctors determine the cause and severity of the stroke, guiding them in making appropriate treatment decisions. Time is critical in stroke diagnosis and treatment, so seeking medical attention immediately when stroke symptoms are suspected is crucial for the best possible outcome.

C.  CURE FOR A STROKE

As for a cure, it depends on the type of stroke:

  • Ischemic Stroke: In many cases, doctors can give medication called “clot-busters” to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow. They might also recommend procedures like a thrombectomy to physically remove the clot. Long-term treatment may involve medications and lifestyle changes to prevent future strokes.
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: Treating this type of stroke usually involves stopping the bleeding and reducing pressure in the brain. Surgery may be needed to repair the damaged blood vessel or remove blood clots. Medications and other treatments may also be used to manage symptoms and prevent complications.

As a result of the medical tests that that were performed on me I was fortunate when told that by taking 1 aspirin a day for the rest of my life I should avoid a recurrence of a stroke.

D. RECOVERY FROM A STROKE

The speed and extent of recovery after a stroke vary greatly from person to person and depend on several factors, including the type of stroke, the area of the brain affected, the severity of the damage, and the individual’s overall health and age. Recovery is typically categorized into short-term and long-term phases:

  1. Short-Term Recovery (Days to Weeks):
    • Immediate Medical Care: The first hours and days after a stroke are critical. Swift medical intervention can minimize damage and improve outcomes.
    • Acute Treatment: If the stroke is caused by a blood clot, treatments like clot-busting medication or thrombectomy may be administered to restore blood flow to the brain.
    • Hospitalization: Patients are usually closely monitored in the hospital, where healthcare professionals focus on stabilizing their condition, preventing complications, and providing early rehabilitation.
    • Physical and Occupational Therapy: In the acute phase, stroke survivors often begin physical and occupational therapy to regain basic motor skills and independence.
  2. Long-Term Recovery (Months to Years):
    • Rehabilitation: Stroke survivors typically continue rehabilitation after leaving the hospital. This may involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and sometimes recreational therapy.
    • Adaptive Strategies: Patients and their families learn to adapt to any permanent disabilities. This may include using mobility aids, assistive devices, or making home modifications for safety.
    • Medications: Some individuals may need long-term medications to manage stroke-related conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
    • Lifestyle Changes: Lifestyle modifications such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, smoking cessation, and alcohol moderation can significantly impact recovery and reduce the risk of future strokes.
    • Emotional Support: Stroke survivors may experience emotional challenges such as depression, anxiety, or changes in personality. Support from mental health professionals and support groups can be beneficial.
    • Continued Improvement: Recovery can continue for months or even years after a stroke. Many people see significant gains in their abilities and quality of life over time.

It’s important to note that not all stroke survivors experience the same level of recovery. Some may recover fully and regain their previous level of functioning, while others may have long-lasting disabilities. The key factors that influence recovery include the extent of brain damage, the availability and intensity of rehabilitation, and the individual’s motivation and support system.

Early intervention and ongoing rehabilitation play a crucial role in improving outcomes after a stroke. Setting realistic goals and working closely with healthcare professionals can help stroke survivors maximize their recovery potential. Patience, perseverance, and a positive attitude also contribute to the journey of recovery.

E. CONCLUSION

It’s important to remember that getting medical help quickly is crucial when determining what to do if you have a stroke. Time is of the essence because the longer the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen, the more damage can occur. So, if you suspect someone is having a stroke, call 911 or emergency services immediately. Strokes can be very serious, but with prompt medical attention and rehabilitation, many people can recover and regain their quality of life to some extent.