Strokes are the third most common cause of death in the UK after heart disease and cancer, and each year over 100,000 people experience these medical emergencies. As well as being potentially fatal, strokes can cause brain injuries that leave sufferers with severe disabilities. If you or someone you know has experienced the trauma of a stroke, you’ll be all too aware of how dangerous and distressing they can be. Older people are at the greatest risk of suffering these emergencies, but strokes can affect people of any age, even children.
What causes strokes?
Strokes happen when the blood supply is cut off to part of the brain. There are two main types of these events. Ischaemic strokes, which are the most common and account for more than four in five cases, occur when the supply of blood is cut off because of a clot. The other type is referred to as haemorrhagic and it happens when a blood vessel supplying the brain is weakened and bursts.
There is also a related condition called a transient ischaemic attack. Often known as a ‘mini-stroke’, this can last between half an hour and several hours and it can be a warning sign that someone is at an imminent risk of having a full stroke.
A range of things can increase the likelihood of strokes, including diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, a poor diet, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.
What are the warning signs of strokes?
It’s essential that you are aware of the warning signs of strokes because urgent treatment can minimise the damage. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, you should call for an ambulance immediately. The main symptoms can be remembered with the acronym FAST, referring to face, arms, speech and time.
The face can show signs of drooping on one side, or a person may not be able to smile. People can also struggle to lift both arms if they are having a stroke, or they might have numbness in their arms. Speech can be garbled or slurred, or people may not be able to talk at all. If you notice any of these indicators, it is time to call an ambulance. Even if the symptoms disappear while you’re waiting for paramedics to arrive, you should still go to hospital.
Other signs of a stroke can include sudden blurring or loss of vision, confusion, dizziness, problems swallowing, difficulties balancing, a very sudden and severe headache and loss of consciousness.
Stroke prevention and treatment
There are a number of ways to reduce your risk of suffering one of these medical emergencies. For example, doing enough exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and limiting your alcohol intake can cut the danger. Also, if you have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol levels, you may benefit from taking medication to help tackle these problems. If you have an irregular heartbeat caused by atrial fibrillation, you may be advised to take an anticoagulant medicine.
If you do suffer a stroke, your treatment will depend on the type of stroke you have and which parts of your brain are affected. Medication can be used to remove or prevent blood clots and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Surgery can also be used to reduce swelling in the brain and, in cases of haemorrhagic strokes, to address the risk of further bleeding.
What can I expect after a stroke?
Unfortunately, many people who suffer strokes are left with long-term health problems because of the damage done to their brains. If you experience a stroke, you may require a long period of rehabilitation to regain your independence, or you might find you never recover your former mobility. Around 50% of people who have a stroke rely on some form of care to help with their everyday activities.
You might need assistance from specialists including speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and psychologists as part of your treatment. It’s important to be aware that as well as physical problems, it’s common to experience psychological difficulties after a stroke. For example, you may be at an increased risk of anxiety and depression.
How Adjustamatic beds and riser recliner chairs can help
The range of products we provide at Adjustamatic can help to increase independence after a stroke. Our riser recliner chairs are easy and safe for people with restricted movement to use, making it simple to move from a standing to a sitting position, or vice versa. In addition, our adjustable beds ensure users can sit up or lie down at the touch of a button. They also make it easier to achieve a comfortable sleeping position. These features can reduce people’s dependence on relatives or carers.
Many of our products can be fitted with our NHC Cyclo-Therapy system, which helps to improve circulation and reduce pain. It also promotes relaxation and can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety. For more information on our innovative product range, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly and professional team on 0808 301 7056.