Having a Stroke

This article was published in The West End Times July 2, 2011.

When you are scared out of your wits and you don’t know what’s happening and your whole side, well there’s no movement and you’re trying to get your hand to work and it’s not happening, it’s pretty scary.”

June is stroke awareness month. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is disrupted in some way. As a result brain cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Some brain cells become damaged and others die. The symptoms depend on the part of the brain affected and the extent of the damage incurred, explaining why no two strokes are the same and why recovery is so different for those affected.

Most strokes occur when a blood clot blocks one of the arteries which carry blood to the brain. This type of stroke is referred to as an ischemic stroke. The term ‘ischemia’ means an inadequate flow of blood.

However, some strokes are caused by bleeding within or around the brain from a burst blood vessel. This type of stroke is referred to as a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhage is the medical term for the bleeding.

The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right side controls the left side of the body. Each side of the brain has different functions affecting what type of symptoms the person experiences.

The left side of the brain normally controls reading, writing, speaking and understanding. So you are more likely to have speech problems if the stroke affects the right side of your body.

Know the warning signs:

• Weakness: Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary
• Trouble speaking : Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary
• Vision problems: Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.
• Headache: Sudden severe and unusual headache.
• Dizziness: Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.

Too few Canadians who have suffered a stroke get to the hospital quickly enough for this medical emergency, according to a report released by the Canadian Stroke Network. Your chances for the best recovery depend on speed. If you or your loved one notices any of these symptoms, don’t wait. Call 911. Fast diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference.

Prevention is the best way to go. Too few dollars are spent on awareness and prevention. Because most of our health care dollars are spent on sick and emergency care, people are ending up with the lifetime effects of diseases like stroke. We have to educate ourselves and be aware of our role in developing healthy lifestyles.

Hypertension or high blood pressure is found in 64% of people with stroke. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, high blood pressure rose 77 per cent among Canadians between 1994 and 2005, based on patients’ own reports, which are less accurate than measurements. It spiked among Canadians aged 35 to 49, increasing 127 per cent during the same period.

Shocking data shows that there are more than 250,000 young Canadians in their 20s and 30s with high blood pressure,” said Stephen Samis, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s director of health policy. He made the statement in a report released in January 2010. “It’s almost a doubling in 15 years.

What is wrong with us??? High blood pressure may have NO symptoms. Take your blood pressure. If it is elevated just a few changes may save you. Of course in these days of technology, blood pressure machines are in most pharmacies. Start there. No line ups, no waiting for appointments, no excuses. If your blood pressure is up, keep monitoring it. Look at your lifestyle…diet, exercise, weight, alcohol consumption, salt intake and smoking habits. Just minor changes can make a difference. Treat yourself to life without strokes.