Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death in America and the leading cause of adult disability. Up to 80% of strokes are preventable. A stroke or “brain attack” occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these events happens brain cells die resulting in brain damage causing loss of function controlled by that part of the brain.

Stroke facts:

  • Approximately 795,000 strokes occur annually.
  • Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States
  • Approximately 55,000 more women than men have strokes each year.
  • Stroke happens to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age.
  • Two million brain cells die each minute during stroke increasing risk of permanent brain damage, disability and death.

About 15% of strokes are preceded by TIA (“mini stroke”) Stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths. Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke. Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes. About 185,000 strokes—nearly 1 of 4—are in people who have had a previous stroke. About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked. Stroke costs the United States an estimated $34 billion each year.2 This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work. Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.2 Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over. (https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm)

Lawnwood’s Comprehensive Stroke Center has earned the Joint Commission’s accreditation as a Primary Stroke Center and is also a Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Licensed Comprehensive Stroke Center. To make an appointment with a physician from our stroke team, call (800) 382-3522.

Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute is proud to be a Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Licensed Comprehensive Stroke Center. AHCA is the chief health policy and planning entity for the state. The Agency is responsible for health facilities licensure, inspection, and regulatory enforcement. The head of the Agency for Health Care Administration is the Secretary, who is appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate. (http://ahca.myflorida.com/inside_ahca/index.shtml)

When Stroke Strikes, Seconds Count.

BE FAST. Recognize Stroke Symptoms:

  • Balance Lost
  • Eyes - Blurred Vision
  • Facial Drooping
  • Arm Weakness
  • Speech Difficulty
  • Time to Call 9-1-1

Few Americans know the symptoms of stroke. Learning them and acting FAST when they occur can prevent death and disability.

Common stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

You have the power to end strokes

Strokes are preventable, know your risk factors. The key to prevention is aggressive self-awareness, constant attention and action to control your risk factors. Because there are interventions that may decrease the damage done by a stroke or improve your outcome, knowledge of the signs and symptoms of stroke is also vital. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any symptoms. Don’t drive to the hospital call 911!

Signs of a stroke

A stroke is caused by an interruption in blood flow to the brain. Symptoms may vary, depending on which part of the brain is affected. This is also the reason that stroke symptoms may occur on only one side of the body. The following symptoms may indicate a stroke:

  • Difficulty walking: A stroke may affect mobility, causing loss of balance, stumbling, or lack of coordination.
  • Trouble speaking: People having a stroke may have slurred speech or suffer from aphasia (the inability to recall words). If you are unable to repeat a simple sentence, that may be a sign of a stroke.
  • Blurred or blackened vision: Double vision and losing sight in one eye are both common indications of stroke.
  • Headache: A sudden and severe headache, for no apparent reason, could indicate a stroke. The headache may be paired with pain in the face (especially between the eyes) or stiffness in the neck.
  • Numbness or paralysis: Generally occurring on one side of the body, paralysis and numbness frequently accompany a stroke. If you believe you are suffering a stroke, try to raise both arms above your head. If one falls or remains motionless, a stroke is the likely cause.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA): During a TIA, the patient’s blood flow is interrupted temporarily. Stroke-like symptoms may occur for a few minutes or 24 hours. Patients who have a TIA are more likely to suffer a full-blown stroke.

What to do

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, call an ambulance immediately. After that, keep the person safe and comfortable until help arrives. These steps may also be necessary:

  • If the person stops breathing, administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if possible.
  • If the person vomits, turn his or her head to the side to prevent choking.
  • Don’t allow the person to drink or eat anything.

Stroke support groups

Lawnwood has partnered with other community resources, including the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) to provide both inpatient and outpatient support groups. These support groups are designed to educate regarding the signs and symptoms of stroke/TIA, and the importance of activating the EMS system. In addition they empower survivors and caregivers with knowledge of community resources and coping mechanism to deal with continued disability to obtain an optimum state of health.

Lawnwood’s Stroke Support Group meets the third Friday of every month in the cafeteria private dining room at 1:30pm to 3:00pm. This is free and open to the public, lunch is provided. To attend, RSVP by calling (800) 382-3522.

Adapting your home for a stroke survivor

One of the most common side effects of a stroke is loss of mobility. Often patients find that they lose use of only one side of their bodies. Often mobility can be regained through physical therapy, but immediately after a stroke, it’s important to take these limitations into account. Adapting your home for a stroke survivor ensures that the survivor stays safe and maintains as much independence as possible.

Getting into and around the house

Many stroke survivors may need to use a wheelchair or walker at first. That extra equipment could make getting inside and around the house a challenge.

Consider installing a wheelchair ramp if steps lead up to the house. If that’s not an option, be sure to put in sturdy handrails on either side of the steps.

Replace cobblestones or other uneven walkways with cement sidewalks or another more even surface. Those cozy looking walkways may pose a tripping hazard.

For single steps, say from the garage into the house, add a short handrail and add some traction strips.

In the house, make sure that rugs and carpets lay smoothly, without bubbles or wrinkles.

Consider installing door knobs that can be turned without grasping. Test them out by trying to open them while your hand is clenched into a fist.

Preparing the Bathroom

We all use the bathroom daily, often taking for granted how easy it is to take a shower or brush our teeth. But for a stroke survivor, these activities may be much more difficult.

Put a handrail beside the tub or shower, to provide support for getting into and out of the tub. Install another one inside the tub if needed, so there’s something to hold during bathing.

Consider getting a shower seat and installing a detachable shower head to make it easier to wash from a sitting position, without the person’s having to sit in the tub.

Put down a rubber mat or some other non-slip surface in the tub. In the rest of the bathroom, minimize the likelihood of a fall by putting down bath mats with rubberized backing.

Adaptations for the bedroom

Getting dressed is a primary focus of stroke patients’ early occupational therapy. Making it easier to get out clothes and put them away makes this task much more manageable.

Just as regular door knobs may be inaccessible for stroke survivors, drawer, closet, and cabinet pulls may also present barriers. Change out any hardware that can’t be opened one-handed by the stroke survivor.

Consider height. Many stroke survivors cannot reach over their heads or down very low. Put frequently used items, like shoes, up on a shelf. Lower shelving for clothes, so that hangers are located closer to shoulder height.

Look for a bedside lamp that can be turned on and off with a touch or a pull-chain. Those rotating switches can be tough for people who don’t have much fine motor control.

If you have questions about stroke prevention, recovery, or therapy, please contact us at (800) 382-3522 for answers to your questions or free referrals to physicians and specialists in the Treasure Coast area.