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7 critical stroke prevention and treatment tips for elderly

Stroke is the 5th highest killer disease worldwide. These 7 life-saving tips to prevent stroke aims to help the elderly and other vulnerable groups in America.

Stroke is the 5th highest killer disease worldwide. These 7 life-saving tips to prevent stroke aims to help the elderly and other vulnerable groups in America.

By: Rosemarie Tamunday Casanova — RN, BSN, MHA

Stroke is a much dangerous and serious problem that everyone must be aware of it and get involved in further spreading this awareness to others. It has been tagged the 5th highest killer disease, and in the United States alone, up to 800,000 people lose their lives to stroke. Today, we hope to create much awareness so that people can understand the causative factors and how to prevent them as well as the tell tale signs of stroke, how to manage stroke and the sometimes disabling complications of stroke.

With over 40 million people currently having suffered from stroke at some point in their lives and with and incidence of 13 million new cases each year, this sometimes deadly medical condition is indeed one of public health concern. Stroke takes the lives of and average of 5 – 6 million people every year, leaving more persons in one form of disability or another.

How does stroke happen?

mid body photo of an elderly

Stroke is a medical condition that occurs when the arteries that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain or those leading to it are blocked or ruptured.

This causes the brain tissues to have a limited supply of these essential components of its survival and death of that portion of the brain occurs within a short time.

When this happens, it’s effects are felt on other parts of the body that are controlled by the affected brain part.

Types of stroke

There are basically two types of stroke depending on how the blood vessel is affected:

Hemorrhagic Stroke

This type of stroke involves the rupturing of a blood vessel. When this occurs, the spilled blood from the blood vessel into the brain puts some pressure on the brain tissues and raises the overall pressure within the skull. It is this increased pressure coupled with the interrupted blood supply that leads to brain tissue damage.

About 13% of all strokes happen this way and more often than not, the weakened blood vessels occur either as a result of a ballooning of the vessel walls (a phenomenon known as aneurysm) or from prolonged and untreated high blood pressure.

Ischemic Stroke

Up to 87% of all strokes are ischemic. In this type of stroke, a blood clot or a mass obstructs the free passage of blood from the vessel to the tissues they supply. In some cases, the blood clot can form just at the site where it eventually causes an occlusion and in some other cases, it would have travelled from a different part of the body where the diameter of the vessels are much larger to the brain vessels that are smaller in diameter, also resulting in an occlusion.

blood artery

Photo by Starline on Freepik

What are the risk factors for stroke?

Many factors have been implicated as contributing to the risk of stroke, some in higher proportion than others. However, the greatest risk factor and in most cases, the precursor of stroke is high blood pressure. It is this notoriety that has earned it the name of “silent killer”. It is this prolonged increase in blood pressure that weakens or ruptures blood vessels. Other known risk factors include:

Dietary Habits

Certain kinds of food, commonly referred to as junk food are known to increase blood cholesterol levels. This accumulation of cholesterol has a domino effect. First, the high cholesterol levels can clog and roughen the blood vessel walls which does not only restrict the free flow of blood but also triggers clots to form in unwanted places. Secondly, poor diets can lead to obesity which in itself, is a known risk factor for hypertension and stroke.

Increased Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is the measure of body mass index. High indices are a pointer to obesity. Obesity can trigger an increase in blood pressure which in turn becomes a causative factor for stroke. Approximately 23% of people with high body mass index will likely have stroke at some point in their lives.

Smoking

Tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for stroke as well asides its other recognized harmful effects. Over 7000 chemical toxins are associated with the use of tobacco and this is why about 23.4% of smokers are likely to suffer from stroke.

Diabetes

A chronic increase in blood fasting glucose levels, as seen in people suffering from diabetes, is another known causal factor. Diabetes compromises blood vessels and that is why most deaths from diabetes are usually associated with a complication of cardiovascular origin.

Kidney Failure

End stage or chronic kidney failure is known to have affected over half a billion people. Every year, one million people die from kidney failure and many of these deaths are due mostly to the high blood pressure that comes as a result of the kidneys being unable to perform their regulatory functions. The elevated blood pressure again explains the cause of stroke in such patients.

Sedentary Lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle is one of minimal activity or in some cases, absolute inactivity. Most times it is preventable especially when it is self-induced. Gamers and people who work behind a screen station are usually prone to this. Others could be people suffering from a debilitating illness or a disability.

Reduced physical activity leads to accumulation of calories and storage of same as fat. This is followed by an increase in body mass index, obesity and consequently, high blood pressure and possibly stroke.

The Red flags - Signs and symptoms of Stroke

It is important to know the red flags of stroke and get professional help quickly as recovery from stroke is time dependent. Some of the symptoms of stroke include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden problems seeing in one eye or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Other danger signs that may occur include double vision, drowsiness, and nausea or vomiting.

Can stroke be prevented?

It is perhaps interesting to note that up to 80% of strokes are preventable. Yes! This means that you have the power, in most cases, to decide not to be a victim of stroke. How do you do that?

A stroke can occur at any age, regardless of the person’s race or family history. However, you can take steps to lower your stroke risk. Ask your doctor what you may be able to do. Take a look at these tips, even if you’re in great health:

Blood pressure device and medicines

Photo on Unsplash

1. Maintain A Healthy Blood Pressure Level

Make sure your blood pressure is checked regularly. Follow your doctor’s advice to lower it if it is high. By treating high blood pressure, you can decrease both stroke and heart disease risks.

2. Manage Your Cholesterol

Work with your doctor to lower your cholesterol if you have high levels. Cholesterol, a type of fat in the blood, can accumulate on the walls of your arteries. Over time, it can block blood flow and result in a stroke.

3. Keep Your Diabetes Under Control

Diabetes can damage blood vessels and also cause narrowed arteries and strokes if left untreated. You should follow your physician’s advice about how to keep diabetes under control.

4. Maintain A Healthy Diet

You should eat foods without cholesterol and that are low in saturated fat. Make sure you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day.

5. Stop Smoking

Smoking increases your risk for stroke. It’s never too late to quit, the earlier you quit, the greater the health benefit. In the first few months after quitting, your health will improve. This will be beneficial to your heart and lungs. As a result, your hands and feet will be able to receive more blood, and your immune system will improve.

a group of people doing exercise

Photo by Anupam-Mahapatra on Unsplash

6. Get Regular Exercise

Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Take a brisk walk, ride a bicycle, or go swimming; do what you enjoy. If you haven’t been exercising and would like to start a vigorous program or increase your physical activity, speak with your healthcare provider.

7. Have Your Regular Medical Checkup

Approximately one out of three people with high blood pressure are not even aware that they have it. Therefore, it is important to get regular medical examinations in order to diagnose and treat diseases at an early stage.

In the event that you’ve had a stroke in the past, reducing your risk of having a second stroke is essential. When you suffer a stroke, your brain draws on body systems that now do double duty to help you recover. Hence, a second stroke can produce twice as much damage.

Except in cases that are due to a previous health condition, most of the risk factors of stroke can be prevented. By simply making adjustments to your lifestyle, including some physical activity in your daily or weekly routine or by eating healthy and reducing or eliminating the exposure to toxins from smoking, you can extend your life expectancy by 5 more years (if you are above 50). One in three people with high blood pressure are not even aware that they have it. Hence, the need for regular medical checks as early diagnosis and treatment is the key to a better outcome.

doctor speaking to his patient

Photo by NCI on Unsplash

Diagnosing and Treating Stroke

Treatment for stroke depends on the stage of the disease. Typically, stroke treatment is divided into three stages: prevention, immediately following stroke treatment, and rehabilitation after stroke. Stroke therapies include medications, surgery, and rehabilitation.

The use of surgery and vascular procedures can prevent stroke, treat stroke, or fix damage to blood vessels or malformations of the brain. The procedures included in this group are angioplasty, stenting, and carotid endarterectomy.

Stroke treatment begins the moment emergency medical services (EMS) arrive to transport you to the hospital. When you arrive at the hospital, you can receive emergency care, treatment for another stroke, rehabilitation for stroke-related side effects, or all three.

When you see someone you know showing stroke symptoms, dial 9-1-1 immediately. You should not drive yourself to the hospital or allow someone else to drive you there. Getting to the hospital quickly is the key to stroke treatment and recovery. 1 in 3 stroke patients never call 9-1-11.1 Calling for an ambulance ensures that medical personnel can begin life-saving care as quickly as possible after calling.

avoiding the risk factors

As mentioned earlier, sedentary lifestyle has been fingered as a stroke risk factor. With the global pandemic and lockdown that followed the spread of covid 19 globally, more active people have been subjected to an indoor life of minimal activity. This may have a ripple effect, increasing the number of stroke cases in the near future.

However, being indoors should not necessarily equate to being inactive. People can take up challenges, form groups over the web and meet those exercise challenges. It is time for friends and couples to bond through exercise and create indoor activities for themselves such as building and repairs. This helps to burn up those unused calories.

This month, take out time to spread the awareness to friends and family, parents and grannies. In 2021, awareness campaigns have become much more easier with the availability of the internet alongside the wide acceptability and use of social media. With these platforms, the message can reach even more people.

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