By Tracey-Lee Du Plessis

Did you know that a 1 of 6 people die from cardiovascular disease bought on by a stroke? A stroke occurs when an artery in the brain becomes blocked. When an artery in the brain becomes blocked, it prevents blood supply to that area of the brain. The brain needs oxygen and when brain cells do not receive the oxygen they need, they die. 

You get 2 types of strokes: 

  1. Most strokes are caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain this is known as an ischemic stroke. 
  2. Other strokes are caused by bleeding into brain tissue when a blood vessel bursts this is known as a hemorrhagic stroke.

Do you know the signs of someone who has had a stroke? Read carefully because did you know the more time lost is brain lost! There are various underlying reasons for a stroke, but most will have the same signs and symptoms. You can suspect a stroke if you experience the following:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking
  • Sudden loss of normal balance
  • Sudden dizziness or headache
  • Sudden vision loss, either fully or partially

The easiest way to remember this and to be able to quickly identify if someone is having a stroke, follow the FAST principles:

F – Face drooping. If unsure, ask the person to smile or stick out their tongue. 

A – Arm weakness. Can the person raise both arms out to the side? 

S – Speech difficulty. Is speech slow or slurred. 

T – Time to call for help! This is an emergency, and you should act FAST

So, what is the fuss and how exactly does a physiotherapist help? Physiotherapy is extensively involved with the management of a stroke during the various stages. Each stage involves a different set of goals that both the physiotherapist and the patient set and work towards. Physiotherapy can begin as early as one day following a stroke and will continue until discharge and even on an outpatient basis. 

Following discharge from hospital, it is very important that the patient and family members arrange for physiotherapy to continue either at their home or at the rooms. This is critical in order to not only maintain the progress already made but also to further build upon that progress. 

A detailed assessment of the patient including gait analysis, standing and sitting balance, co-ordination of hands and feet movement analysis and more. Specific exercises are given at each session that are aligned with completing a relevant activity or goal. The overall aim of physiotherapy for stroke management is to guide them as close as possible towards independent living.

Prevention is key and there are ways you can lower your or a family members risk of having a stroke! Here are our prevention tips for you:

  1. Lower your blood pressure: High blood pressure is the biggest contributing factor for increased risk of a stroke in both men and women. If blood pressure is not controlled, your risk of a stroke can double or even quadruple. It is best to maintain a blood pressure under 135/85.
  2. Lose weight: It is ideal to maintain a body mass index (BMI) of 25. 
  3. Exercise more: Not exercising can lead to obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes. It is recommended you exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
  4. Drink in moderation: Studies show if you have about one drink per day, your chance of a stroke may decrease. However, having more than two drinks a day will increase your risk dramatically.
  5. Treat Atrial Fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation can increase your risk of having a stoke by fivefold. This condition causes blood to pool in your heart which can then clot. If the clot travels to your brain, it can cause a stroke. If you feel your heart flutters or have shortness of breath, consult your doctor. 
  6. Treat Diabetes: High blood sugar can make you 2-4 times more likely to have a stroke. 
  7. Quit smoking: You double your risk of having a stroke if you use tobacco. Speak to your doctor about the best way for you to quit smoking.

You can greatly reduce your risk for stroke by making lifestyle changes to help control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and, in some cases, by taking medication. Don’t be a statistic and work with your health care provider to prevent and reduce your risks of a stroke TODAY!

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