Living Well: Most strokes are preventable |

Living Well: Most strokes are preventable

Lauren Glendenning/Brought to you by Memorial Regional Health
At Memorial Regional Health, stroke is treated by neurology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and sometimes Home Health services.

Speech Therapy services at MRH

Memorial Regional Health offers speech-language therapy for both adults and children. Therapists help individuals with both the physical act of speaking and the cognitive act of forming words and creating language.

In order to see a speech-language therapist, you must first receive a referral from your primary care physician.

For appointments, call 970-824-5992.

Facts about stroke

  • Nearly 800,000 (approximately 795,000) people in the United States have a stroke every year, with about three in four being first-time strokes.
  • Stroke is the fifth cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 people a year (128,978). That’s one in every 20 deaths.
  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.
  • Every four minutes, someone dies of stroke.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability.
  • More women than men have strokes each year, in part because women live longer.
  • Estimates of the overall annual incidence of stroke in U.S. children are 6.4 per 100,000 children (0 to 15 years), with approximately half being hemorrhagic strokes.
  • 87% of strokes are classified as ischemic. An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot or a mass blocks a blood vessel, cutting off blood flow to a part of the brain.
  • African-Americans are more impacted by stroke than any other racial group within the American population.

Source: American Stroke Association

The ABCs of stroke

A: Aspirin may help lower stroke risk, but don’t take aspirin without first consulting with your doctor, as it can make some types of stroke worse.

B: Blood pressure. Keep it in check.

C: Cholesterol. Make sure it’s controlled.

S: Smoking. Quit or don’t start.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of strokes may be preventable, and three out of four first strokes are associated with high blood pressure.

The reason there’s a statistic for “first” strokes is because one in four stroke survivors has another stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.

The signs of a stroke include a sudden, severe headache, weakness, numbness, vision problems, confusion, trouble walking or talking, dizziness and slurred speech.

At Memorial Regional Health, stroke is treated by neurology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and sometimes Home Health services.

MRH Speech Language Pathologist Joan Parnell works with doctors and patients to develop specialized treatment plans for stroke patients. The treatment begins by understanding the area in the brain where the stroke has occurred.

“Every patient is different, so it varies patient to patient,” Parnell said. “Their age, prior level of function, severity of CVA (cerebrovascular accident), and a patient’s motivation all have an affect on how the treatment is provided and the outcome of treatment.”

What is stroke?

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries that lead to and reside within the brain, according to the American Stroke Association. When a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain gets blocked by a clot or ruptures, part of the brain can’t get the blood and oxygen it needs, causing brain cells to die.

“When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as memory and muscle control, are lost,” according to the National Stroke Association.

When it’s a clot that obstructs blood flow to the brain, it’s called an ischemic stroke. When a blood vessel ruptures and prevents blood flow, this is called a hemorrhagic stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.

Where a stroke occurs also produces different effects. Because the brain controls our body’s functioning, the location of the stroke in the brain will correlate to symptoms in the body controlled by that part of the brain.

“The effects of a stroke depend primarily on the location of the obstruction and the extent of brain tissue affected,” according to the American Stroke Association.

Parnell describes it as a storm that goes through the brain, damaging some of the lines and wires like electrical and phone lines and wires would be damaged in a bad storm.  

“They then need to perform therapy to improve the damaged wires of their brain,” she said. “They may feel ‘dumb’ — as they often say to me — or they are embarrassed, so I celebrate the smallest successes to improve their confidence and keep building from there.”

Because these patients have experienced this storm within their brains, it’s important for friends, family and other caregivers to be patient. Parnell suggests keeping commands and directions simple, allowing the person plenty of time to communicate, and not answering questions for them.

Prevention and treatment

Living a healthy lifestyle — eating nutritious foods, exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight and other factors — is the most common way to prevent many diseases, and stroke is no different.

The factors that lead to stroke — hypertension, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and obesity — are all preventable.

The seven best ways to reduce your risk for stroke, according to Harvard Health, are lowering blood pressure, losing weight (if you’re overweight), exercising more, reducing alcohol consumption (if you drink), treating atrial fibrillation, treating diabetes and quitting smoking.

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