Stroke basics broken down

BE FAST mnemonic device for stroke

What I wish I had known Post-Stroke Pt #1

Education & Statistics

I never understood exactly, by definition, what a stroke was. Now I know it is the sudden death of brain cells caused by a lack of oxygen. The lack of oxygen is either caused by a blockage of blood flow (ischemic) or the sudden rupture of an artery (hemorrhagic). About 87% of strokes are ischemic. Until I started researching strokes, about 5 years post-stroke, I never understood that I had an ischemic stroke. Mine was caused by a blood clot that formed due to the inactivity during an induced coma caused in 2009.

Time is so important when you are having a stroke. Every second that passes while having a stroke 32,000 neurons (brain cells) die which is about 2 million each minute. So, obviously getting to the hospital and receiving treatment is so crucial to minimize the lasting effects of a stroke. In the United States, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. It is also the leading cause of disability in the US.

Risk factors for a stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, drinking, drug use, a lack of activity, obesity, and an unhealthy diet. In fact, smoking just one cigarette a day increases the risk more than 30%.

Stroke prevention includes staying active and a healthy diet, among other things. 1 in 4 stroke survivors are at risk of having a second one, however according to the American Stroke Association 80% of strokes can be prevented with “medication and healthy habits.”

Signs of a stroke

If a stroke is suspected in any way just remember the mnemonic device: BE FAST. It stands for:

When a stroke is believed to be going on or has happened, take a look at how the person’s balance is. Generally, the person’s balance is off due to weakness on one side of the body and possibly visual perception issues. Look at the eyes, is one eye drooping? At times one side of the face could be drooping as well, look at the corners of the mouth. If the person has weakness in just one arm it is possible they are having or have had a stroke. Speech difficulty is a common side effect as well. If you see one or more of these signs it is imperative you call 911. The faster someone receives treatment, the better their prognosis.

I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle because it can help prevent another stroke. I also noticed so many improvements with the function of my arm when I tried to keep it involved in everyday activity. It’s unfortunate I never realized how much I loved to go walk outside until I lost the ability to walk. With the help of physical therapy I relearned how to walk my sixth month post stroke. I now enjoy walking and getting out in the fresh air and clear my mind.

It is my biggest regret that I didn’t start therapy until 9+ years post, but I think that has played a role in my determination and persistency that I have today. I have resolved to gain back function in my hand.

If you don’t like the road you’re walking on, start paving another one.

-Dolly Parton

Ideas to stay active after stroke

  • Go walking
  • Chair/seated workouts and exercises
  • Join a YMCA or community center near you and see if they have a class geared towards stroke recovery or corrective exercise
  • Try Aqua classes
  • Therapy exercises
  • Try chair yoga
  • Activities of Every day Living such as laundry, doing the dishes, and bathing
  • Play with your kids/grandkids board games with your affected hand
  • Get a light weight or full bottle of water to use as a weight to lift with the affected arm
  • Do light bodyweight exercises

If you are like I was, and if you can, I would encourage you to stay active after your stroke, and remind that even if you haven’t kept up with therapy or stayed active at all, it is not too late to start. Therapy is all around us! Try some of the above ideas to get some activity in. I also have a YouTube channel with tons of stroke information as well as exercise videos. Check it out at Stroke Strength Support

I’d love to hear from you!

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