In May 1989, President George H.W. Bush signed Presidential Proclamation 5975 establishing National Stroke Awareness Month. There’s good reason for us to be well-informed about strokes. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), leading causes of stroke are

and one in three American adults has at least one of these conditions or smokes!

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reports that stroke is the most common cause of adult disability, and the fourth leading killer in the United States. Approximately 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year.

The word “stroke” scares us, and rightfully so. A stroke is sometimes called a “brain attack,” and it happens when the blood supply to part of our brain is blocked (an ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel in our brain bursts (a hemorrhagic stroke), and parts of the brain are damaged or die. In March we discussed why the brain is a big deal, but the CDC provides this concise synopsis we’ll share this month:

The brain controls our movements, stores our memories, and is the source of our thoughts, emotions, and language. The brain also controls many functions of the body, like breathing and digestion.

To limit your risk of stroke, the CDC advises controlling high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes and, of course, quitting smoking (better yet, never starting). Up to eighty percent of strokes could be prevented if we made healthy lifestyle changes and worked with our healthcare providers to address conditions that increase our stroke risk.

Healthy living includes a diet that limits salt, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol, but includes plenty of fiber, fruits, and vegetables. As alcohol raises blood pressure, men should have no more than two drinks per day; women, no more than one. Determine and maintain a healthy weight. Engage in one hundred fifty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, each week.

Aspirin, according to the CDC, may help lower your stroke risk. Discuss with your physician whether an aspirin regimen is right for you. However, if you believe you are having a stroke, do not take aspirin, as it can make some types of stroke worse.

There are, however, stroke risk factors that you cannot control. According to the American Stroke Association, they include

Because women are particularly impacted by stroke, it may be helpful to review the information provided on the Office of Women’s Health website, located here

A stroke requires quick, emergency intervention to limit brain damage. That’s why the FAST acronym was developed, to identify stroke symptoms and prompt immediate action.

Other symptoms are sudden numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body, confusion, difficulty seeing, trouble walking, or severe headache.

It’s important to emphasize that strokes are medical emergencies, and the coronavirus pandemic should not discourage stroke victims from seeking treatment at hospitals!

If you experience a stroke, the Mayo Clinic relates, rehabilitation commonly begins as soon as twenty-four to forty-eight hours later, when you are in the hospital. You are more likely to regain abilities and skills the sooner you begin rehabilitation. Some stroke patients recover quickly, but most require long-term rehabilitation. It depends, naturally, on the severity of the stroke.

Fortunately, the human body has some amazing recovery capabilities! One is termed neuroplasticity, which means that the brain possesses the ability to rewire or reorganize itself after injury or damage. The goal of stroke rehabilitation is relearning skills that were lost when a stroke impacted part of the brain, so that independence is regained and quality of life is improved.

Before leaving the hospital, the stroke patient, the patient’s care team, and the patient’s family formulate a rehabilitation plan. Rehabilitation may occur at in-patient or out-patient facility or at home, and that choice depends upon patient needs, insurance coverage, and convenience.

NINDS observes that home-based treatment “gives people the advantage of practicing skills and developing compensatory strategies in the context of their own living environment.”  NINDS also advises that the largest stroke rehabilitation study conducted in the United States concluded that “intensive balance and strength rehabilitation in the home was equivalent to treadmill training at a rehabilitation facility in improving walking.”

Panhandle Home Health (PHH) can provide a comprehensive home-based program that offers greater flexibility than the other options.

Life frequently throws us curves, and sometimes we can’t prevent distressing things from happening. Remember, though, to first think FAST, then PHH. We’re prepared to partner with you to help you reclaim your independence and rebuild a better quality of life. It’s just smart to have Panhandle Home Health on your recovery team!