What is a stroke?
A stroke is an event that occurs in the brain due to a disruption in the blood flow to the organ. There are 3 different types of stroke, ischemic, hemorrhagic, and transient ischemic. Ischemic strokes are caused by a blockage in the arteries, whereas hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a ruptured or broken artery. Transient ischemic strokes are temporary minor ischemic strokes that don’t last as long and also are often indicators of a more serious stroke to come.
What are the symptoms of stroke?
Signs and symptoms of stroke to look out for include:
Numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg muscles, often only on one side
- Confusion, difficulty of speech, or problems comprehending speech
- Blurred vision
- Balance and coordination issues
- Sudden severe headache
As a general rule of thumb, use the F.A.S.T acronym when looking for signs of stroke. F stands for face drooping, A stands for inability to raise an arm, S stands for speech impairment, and T stands for time.
What should I do when stroke symptoms appear?
When symptoms appear get to your nearest stroke treatment and care centre immediately. The first few hours after a stroke occurrence are vital as this is when irreversible brain damage can occur. The longer it takes for you to get to a care centre, diagnosed, and treated, the longer areas of your brain are without blood and oxygen, leading to organ death. Testing at health care centres is primarily done by CT scans, but blood tests may also be used in the diagnostic process. Time can’t be stressed enough, as this determines the extent of the damage done. To find your nearest stroke care and treatment centre visit:
How can I prevent and reduce the risk of having a stroke?
To help prevent and reduce your risk of having a stroke, you need to have a good understanding of the risks and what you can actively do to reduce your risk. Nine in ten Canadians have at least one risk factor for stroke or heart disease. Living with a SpA condition increases your prevalence of having a stroke. Heart and Stroke Foundation report that almost 80% of premature stroke and heart disease can be prevented through healthy behaviors. Habits like eating healthy, being active and living smoke free all have a big impact on your health.
There are lifestyle risk factors you have control over. These include:
- Maintaining a healthy diet – foods you eat affect your health. Making small healthy changes in your daily routine can decrease your risk
- Be active – physical activity is good for your heart and brain. People who are not active have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as increased risk of diabetes, cancer and dementia. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Even a few minutes is a start.
- Maintain a healthy weight – many people living with a SpA condition have difficulty managing their weight – you are not alone. Over 60% of Canadian adults are either overweight or obese. Being overweight can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea. Obesity can double your chance of heart disease.
- If you smoke – stop! – Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke in middle-aged men and women. Quitting is one of the best things you can do to prevent heart disease and stroke. You might be afraid that quitting will be too hard, but there is lots of help available to you when you are ready
- Reduce stress – we know stress is a part of everyday life and living with a chronic illness adds to the stress, try to find ways to eliminate or reduce stress as much as possible. Although stress happens first in the mind, it affects the body. People who have high levels of stress or prolonged stress have higher cholesterol or blood pressure making individuals more prone to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), a stroke risk factor
- Excessive alcohol consumption – Heavy drinking and binge drinking are risk factors for high blood pressure and stroke. Alcohol may also cause problems by interacting with your medications. Try to keep within the guidelines for alcohol consumption.
- Recreational drug use Drugs such as amphetamines, , cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, opioids and PCP increase your risk of having a stroke and developing heart disease. When a stroke occurs, it often happens within hours of drug use.
For more detailed information on prevention click here. https://www.heartandstroke.ca/stroke/risk-and-prevention
Where to find additional information and support?
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is an excellent resource with comprehensive information and advice. They also have information on support groups across the country.
The Heart and Stroke website can be accessed here:
Content credited to: Heart & Stroke Foundation
All information is provided for your general knowledge only, and is not a substitute for the advice from and care by health professionals. Please consult your health care professional regarding details of symptoms, diagnosis and medication or treatment. Any information or links do not imply endorsement.