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  • Suspect a Stroke? Think FAST
    Added by My Identity Doctor
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    Image of a brain inside a lightbulbMay is American Stroke Month. A stroke occurs when a blood clot forms in the brain, or the brain begins to bleed. In the United States, someone will have a stroke every 40 seconds, and 1 in 6 people will have a stroke in their lifetime. [1]
    Often, bystanders—a family member, friend, or even a stranger—is the first to recognize that someone may be having a stroke. The acronym my first aid instructor taught us to recognize signs of stroke is to think FAST!
    Symptoms of a Stroke
    Face – One side of the face will appear to droop. Ask the person to smile—one side of their face will be unable to to move, dependent on the side of the brain the clot or bleed is affecting.
    Arm weakness – One side of the body becomes unresponsive or weak in producing movement with a stroke. Arm weakness or inability to move the arm is a common sign of stroke. Ask the person to lift both arms—if one drifts downwards, this indicates arm weakness. [1.1]
    Speech – If speech seems slurred or words are difficult to produce, this is an important sign that a stroke may be occurring.
    Time – Act quickly—if you notice these symptoms, it is important to call 911 immediately, and get the person medical care as quickly as possible.
    Confusion, numbness in the face or limbs—especially on one side of the body, , confusion and difficulty comprehending others, difficulty seeing with one or both eyes, severe headache, and trouble walking from dizziness or loss of balance are also signs of stroke. [1.11]
    Even if these signs are not attributed to a stroke, they are still signs of something serious that needs to be evaluated.
    If it is a stroke, medications will be given and surgery may be performed. The person will often have to undergo rehabilitation, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy. If acted upon quickly, however, the results only improve. Stroke is the number five cause of death in the United States [1.2]—but it doesn’t have to be. With prompt action, treatment, and rehabilitation, most stroke survivors will be able to recover and adjust to their circumstances and return to doing the things they enjoy—even if they need to be done a bit differently.
    Recovery and Life After a Stroke
    Even after the initial crisis of a stroke has ended, those who have experienced stroke often have a lot of challenges ahead. While some people recover relatively quickly, each stroke and each patient is different.
    Many patients will need to work with professionals in order to regain the skills they once had. They often will experience challenges with: [1.3]
    • Activities of daily living – eating, dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom independently (addressed by an occupational therapist)
    • Physical challenges – these may affect the activities of daily living above—for example, stamina is required to cook, dexterity to use cutlery, and strength to stand, walk, balance, and hold things. (addressed by a physical therapist, some things with assistance from an occupational therapist)
    • Communication – Often, those who experience a stroke may forget words or have a block in pronouncing those words properly. A speech language pathologist, or speech therapist, will often assist individuals to regain communication skills.
    • Emotional and behavioural changes: Because the brain structure has changed, this often results in emotional or behavioural changes that are unusual for the person. The stress of having a stroke, and frustration at being unable to or requiring a lot more effort to do everyday activities and/or communicate can also be emotionally difficult. A variety of individuals on the treatment team will assist with these aspects of stroke recovery—a counsellor, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist may assist with an individual’s adjustment and coping strategies after a stroke.
    There is no way to predict how long a person will take to recover from a stroke—or if they will recover fully. However, by having support from family and friends, and finding motivation to participate in all therapeutic activities prescribed, can only help create a better outcome and more independence.
    While stroke is most often experienced by older adults, younger people or children can and do have strokes. It is important to never assume that a person is not having a stroke, and instead assist them in getting the help they need so that the medical issues can be addressed.
    Risk factors for stroke include age (risk of stroke doubles with each decade of life), heredity (if a family member has had a stroke, or if you have a genetic disorder that increases your risk), race—like heart disease, Blacks have a higher incidence of stroke-related death than caucasians do. Women are more susceptible to strokes than men, which is thought to be linked to hormones, as well as oral contraceptive use. If you’ve had a prior stroke, transient ischemic attack [TIA, or “warning stroke”/“mini stroke”] you are more likely to have a stroke in the future. [1.4].
    Properly treating or managing a variety of medical conditions helps to prevent stroke if you have conditions that put you at increased risk, like hypertension, diabetes, carotid or arterial disease, atrial fibrillation or other heart disease, and sickle cell disease/sickle cell anemia (affecting mostly Black and Hispanic individuals). Not smoking, a healthy diet, and regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight all can help to reduce your stroke risk, especially if you have another chronic disease predisposing you to experiencing a stroke. [1.5]
    If you have had a stroke, you may have difficulty communicating your needs, or feel anxious about not receiving the right medical care. My Identity Doctor has a wide selection of medical ID bracelets and necklaces to communicate your medical needs to those around you.  If you live with a chronic condition that increases your risk of stroke, you should also consider wearing medical ID jewelry.
    Above resources cited are from the American Stroke Association—to learn more, visit this fantastic resource from an organization that is trying to end stroke.
    Published by My Identity Doctor on May 16, 2016


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