photo credit: geralt / pixabay.comCascade In Home Care in the Stanwood area, has worked with patients who have experienced a stroke, here are 5 things you should know.

In Stanwood and around the country, there are nearly 800,000 fatalities each year which are attributable to stroke, which makes that disease the fifth leading cause of deaths in the U.S. Almost 3/4 of these strokes happen to persons aged 65 or above, although stroke is technically possible at any age. In addition to the increased risk associated with older age, there are other risk factors for stroke, including a family history of the disease, having high blood pressure or diabetes, smoking, and being of African-American ethnicity.

It's extremely important that you and all other home caregivers in the household recognize the symptoms of stroke and react quickly to it, because it can literally be a lifesaver for a family member or friend. Here are five things you need to know about strokes, so you can provide the most effective response, if it should ever occur to someone you know and love in the Stanwood area.

1 - What causes a stroke

There are two basic types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, and although they have different causes, their effect on the brain is similar - they both interrupt the flow of blood to the brain, depriving it of critical nutrients and oxygen. Immediately, this causes brain cells to begin dying off, or to become damaged, and that can quickly cause disability in other parts of the body which are managed by the brain.

Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot has formed and blocks the normal flow of blood to the brain, while hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts for some reason, and blood begins bleeding into the brain. In both cases, sections of the brain do not receive the vital elements necessary for proper function, and damage begins to occur very quickly.

2 - How stroke can disable someone

Whenever any section of the brain is deprived of needed oxygen and nutrients, it quickly becomes damaged or dies off altogether, and that in turn affects all those parts of the body which that specific part of the brain manages. The longer a stroke victim goes without effective treatment, the more extensive the damage becomes to the brain and any parts of the body related to it. The kinds of disability which often result after a stroke include problems with speaking clearly and understanding speech, difficulty with various mental processes, emotional disturbance, and paralysis which can be anywhere from mild to moderate to quite severe.

3 - Stroke symptoms

Recognition of stroke symptoms and quick reaction to them, is essential in limiting any kind of physical or mental damage to an elderly loved one. Here's what to look for:

  • observable weakness or slackening of facial muscles, or in the muscles of limbs, particularly when only one side of the body is affected

  • confusion in an elderly person who does not have a prior history of such confusion

  • sudden complaints from a senior about severe headaches, especially from someone who is not typically subject to headaches

  • an abnormal and sudden difficulty with vision, either from one or both eyes

  • obvious problems maintaining balance or difficulties with coordination, including ambulatory problems

  • sudden onset of dizziness, when there is no apparent cause for it

  • problems with speaking, and with understanding the speech of others.

4 - Reacting to a stroke

Chances are, your loved one will not be able to vocalize the fact that he/she is suffering a stroke, since it affects the brain immediately. That makes it doubly important that you or the home caregiver in the Stanwood area recognize the above symptoms, so that fast action can be taken. When any of these symptoms are detected, professional care is needed immediately, so calling 911 is the best course of action you can take. The worst thing you can do is wait for the symptoms to subside, because most likely, greater damage is occurring during every second that you delay.

5 - Stroke prevention

Some of the risk factors for stroke may lie outside the realm of your control, but many of the biggest risk factors are manageable, so by helping your Stanwood area loved one to control these risk factors, you will be significantly lowering the likelihood he/she will eventually suffer a stroke. For instance, smoking is a lifestyle choice that should be completely eliminated, because it is a known contributing factor to the greater risk for stroke. This means that your elderly loved one should be persuaded to quit smoking, and that you should be smoke-free as well, since secondary smoke carries the same risk.

High blood pressure is another known risk factor, but it's one which is highly manageable, as long as you faithfully follow a family doctor's advice and take medications appropriately. Diabetes is in virtually the same category, in that it does not directly lead to a stroke, but can be a contributing factor which is very manageable when following a good physician's recommendations.

Probably the single best approach for stroke prevention is simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle, by having a good diet and including regular exercise in your daily life. Anyone who is overweight will have to work a little harder at this, but it's even more important for overweight people to eat right and exercise, because excess body mass can lead to both high blood pressure and the onset of diabetes.