A stroke can occur suddenly and without any previous signs or symptoms. As the no. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. It occurs when a blood clot restricts the flow of blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel ruptures and brain cells die when it cannot receive the blood and oxygen it needs (hemorrhagic stroke). A “mini stroke” can occur when a blood clot temporarily exists, also known as a transient ischemic attack. But regardless of the type of stroke one endures, the consequences can be serious and even life-threatening.
Depending on the location of the stroke, the individual may suffer from physical, emotional, behavioral, and communicative challenges. These include paralysis, memory loss, vision problems, depressive episodes, and more. Every stroke is different and affects the individual differently depending on the location and severity.
As with most conditions, treatment is most effective the sooner the stroke is caught and help is received. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs below, seek immediate medical attention.
- Difficulty speaking or understanding others
- Vision problems
- Sudden and severe headache
- Trouble walking
- Paralysis of the face or limbs
A stroke can happen to anyone at any time, but there are several lifestyle and medical factors that increase the risk. These include:
- Overweight or physical inactivity
- Heavy drinking, use of illegal drugs, or cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Diabetes, sleep apnea, or heart disease
- Over the age of 55
- Family history
But there is hope. With increasing medical advancements, awareness, and prevention measures, in leading causes of U.S. death, strokes went down a rank to now be fifth instead of fourth. There are also treatment options to help those who have suffered a stroke recover and regain independence and quality of life.
Common Stroke Treatments
There are several treatment options depending on the type of stroke. A catheter can be inserted into the artery to remove the clot or remove plaque as a preventative measure. An angioplasty involves inflating a small balloon in a narrow artery and then inserting a stent. If it was a hemorrhagic stroke, a clamp can be placed at the base of an aneurysm to stop the leak. It’s important to talk with your doctor to decide what is the best option for your individual scenario.
Medications may be used to prevent a stroke or reduce the effects of one. Drugs can be administered to thin the blood, reduce pressure in the brain, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and prevent seizures or sudden constrictions of blood vessels. A doctor may also be able to prescribe medications to help manage the aftereffects of the stroke, such as antidepressants if the individual experiences depression.
After suffering from a stroke, it’s common to feel alone and helpless. Support groups for stroke victims allows individuals to meet and talk with others going through the same thing. It’s a great resource to seek answers to questions, exchange information, and share common experiences. Talking to others who understand is a great stress reliever and can offer hope for all involved in the support group.
If the stroke left the individual with physical or emotional limitations, rehabilitation therapy can be used to help reverse the effects and teach the individual ways to regain their abilities again. Occupational therapy is focused on improving daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, reading, and writing. If speech was affected, speech therapy can help an individual learn how to communicate effectively with those around them. Physical therapy is used if the individual must relearn movement and coordination. Therapy can help rebuild strength, capability, and confidence during the recovery process.
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Alternative Treatments for Strokes
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
A recent study on the use of Transcranial magnetic stimulation to improve post-stroke motor functions prompted “very exciting” results.
The study involved 34 patients who suffered from an ischemic chronic stroke in the contralateral middle cerebral artery and some members received daily TMS therapy for three weeks while others received a sham. The individuals that received the application of the magnetic energy to specific parts of the brain were found to have improvements in their gait and balance functions over those that did not receive the real therapy.
In addition to the recent findings for post-stroke functions, TMS can also be used to treat depression. Electrical currents activate cells within the brain which are thought to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. In most cases, people who utilize this form of therapy see improvements with very minimal negative side effects.
If a person is suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety following a stroke, TMS therapy may be the right choice for them. Call the TMS Center of the Lehigh Valley to find out more about how it can benefit stroke victims.
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