Stroke

Seek medical attention at the first sign of symptoms

Strokes are one of the most common health complications that seniors face. It is considered to be the third leading cause of death amongst seniors.

A stroke is a brain attack in which damage occurs to the brain cells as their blood supply and oxygen source are diminished. This can be caused by a blockage in the vessel that supplies blood to the brain

In seniors, sometimes the early symptoms are very subtle and can go unrecognized. Some signs to watch out for are:

  • confusion or changes in behavior
  • headaches
  • loss of sensation on one side of the body
  • loss of speech or sight

The word ‘stroke’ is used to describe several different kinds of neurological episodes. Most strokes are known as ischemic strokes, and involve an interruption in blood flow to the brain. The remainder, about 13%, are hemorrhagic strokes that involve the rupture of a blood vessel within the brain. A significant percentage of strokes have no known cause.

Strokes are predominant in older adults. Some factors that determine your risk of a stroke are:

  • atrial fibrillation
  • diabetes
  • family history
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • overuse of alcohol
  • overweight
  • smoking

If you notice the symptoms of a stroke, seek medical attention immediately. If the diagnosis can be made within the first three hours of the stroke, a new drug can dramatically reverse the effects of the stroke.

There are occasions when the stroke either goes unrecognized or it is detected after the 3-hour mark. If this is the case the patient faces a long recovery but a possible one. They may need to relearn how to eat, walk and speak but it is possible to have a life after a stroke.

As with other conditions there are things you can do to prevent the risk of a stroke:

  • exercise regularly
  • keep blood pressure normal
  • maintain a normal weight
  • manage stress
  • stop smoking
  • use low doses of aspirin regularly

The incidence of strokes around the world is growing, to the point where stroke is now the second leading cause of all deaths in the western world, and the cause of 10% of all deaths worldwide.

The most important thing you can do to ensure you are not counted among these grim statistics is to fully educate yourself about avoiding stroke and developing a lifestyle that reduces your risks.

Start by checking out the resources made available by the American Stroke Association, including its Stroke Connection magazine.

In Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation provides invaluable resources, including a useful Patient’s Guide to Stroke Care.