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If you or a loved one has had a stroke (often called a “brain attack”), you have suffered some degree of brain damage from either a blockage in a blood vessel leading to the brain or a ruptured blood vessel that caused blood to leak into the brain. In both cases, blood flow to the brain was obstructed, which likely caused a sudden onset of numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, vision problems, confusion, slurred speech, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or a severe headache. The symptoms can vary depending on whether the stroke was caused by a clot (an ischemic stroke) or bleeding (a hemorrhagic stroke), how severe it was, and which side of the brain was affected: If the right side of the brain is affected by a stroke, neurological complications will occur on the left side of the body; if a stroke occurs in the left side of the brain, the right side of the body will be affected neurologically.
When it comes to treating stroke, every minute counts to minimize damage to the brain and boost the chances of recovery and survival. The initial treatment for a stroke will depend on the cause: If it was due to a blood clot, you may be given a clot-busting medication and/or aspirin or another anti-clotting drug; if bleeding in the brain occurred, the goal is to control the bleeding with medications or perhaps surgery.
After your condition has stabilized, the focus shifts to improving your chances of recovering some of the mobility, coordination, swallowing or speech abilities you’ve lost—and to preventing another, secondary stroke. (Having one stroke increases your risk of having another.) To that end, it becomes essential to control your risk factors for stroke, including high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Often, a combination of approaches is called for, including:
There’s no magical timetable for recovering from a stroke but your doctor should be able to give you some idea of your prognosis and what you can do to prevent another one. Many stroke-related disabilities improve over time, particularly with physical therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy, which can enhance the quality of your life. But some effects can remain. Once your treatment is launched, your doctor will want to see you regularly to find out how well you’re sticking with the recommended lifestyle changes and to monitor how well these changes and the medications you’re taking are helping you recover from stroke. Your doctor may also recommend that you participate in a formal stroke rehabilitation program, in which a variety of health professionals can help you with exercises (to regain strength and range of motion), nutrition counseling, stress and mood management, and other ways of reducing your risk of future strokes.
To learn more about how the Visiting Nurse Service of New York can help you recover from stroke, click here.