National Emergency Medicine Assoc. (NEMA)


Stroke published by the National Stroke Council,a special program of National Emergency Medicine Association

Winter 1996 Volume 2 Issue 4

Dear Friends and Supporters,

For one third of stroke patients, paralysis and speech loss change their lives forever. But new technology, careful diagnosis and close supervision enable many to return to a high degree of self sufficiency not previously attainable for many patients in the past.

Rehabilitation teams start as soon as the crisis has passed, to assess the location and extent of damage and to design a complete rehabilitation program using the newest equipment and evaluation methods available. Immediate response to a stroke incident and quick administration of new drugs dramatically reduce the extent of damage incurred as a result of a stroke. Accurate diagnosis of the area and extent of damage enable a more thorough assessment of which rehabilitation options will be most effective. Advances in special needs equipment have enabled most stroke patients to be trained in self care skills, how to compensate for limited ability, what life aids can be installed at home and what new equipment supports the most self sufficiency. These new methods of diagnosis, rehabilitation and supervision enable the majority of patients to function well after a stroke.

Howard Farrington

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What is a Stroke? Part II

What can I do myself? Get the most out of your rehabilitation and treatments. Recovering to your maximum independence and productivity after a stroke requires patience, determination, hard work and a positive attitude.

When should I go to my doctor? If you experience symptoms of stroke or TIA, see your doctor immediately. TIAs do not usually cause permanent damage, but are a warning you must take seriously. In stroke , immediate treatment drastically reduces permanent damage. Don’t delay. Seek medical assistance immediately.

What will the doctor do? Standard functions will be checked first- blood pressure, pulse, heart and eyes. Then a neurological examination will be done checking the level of consciousness, hearing, vision, reflexes and awareness of pain. Your blood flow may be measured with a CT or MRI scan. These tests determine whether the symptoms were caused by stroke or another condition, such as a brain tumor. They also determine the extent of damage. Your doctor will start rehabilitation as soon as the immediate crisis has passed. Your rehabilitation will most likely involve other physical and occupational therapists and other specialists.

What is the course of stroke? Stroke may happen suddenly, but it often follows years of slow buildup of fatty deposits inside the blood vessels. About 10 per cent of strokes are preceded by TIA’s or mini strokes that occur days, weeks or months before a major stroke episode. They frequently last less than 5 minutes, but symptoms are similar to those of a full fledged stroke. Prompt attention at this point can often prevent a subsequent stroke.

A full stroke usually results in varying degrees of loss of sensation or function throughout the body, but one area may suffer more damage than others. For example, a person’s right arm or leg may be paralyzed while the left remains more or less normal. This is due to stroke damage usually being limited to one side of the brain. Each half of the brain controls functions on the opposite side of the body. Thus a stroke in the left half of the brain will result in symptoms on the right side of the body.

The specific functions disrupted by a stroke are also determined by the portion of the brain that is affected. For example, some stroke victims may be unable to speak, but other bodily functions may be normal. The speech center is located in a specific area of the brain; if that area is the site of damage, speech problems are produced.

The level of recovery from a stroke varies greatly. Some people make a good recovery with little or no lasting effects, while others may be left virtually helpless. A good deal depends upon prompt treatment to minimize the initial damage. It used to take weeks or longer to assess the full impact of a stroke. Damaged nerve and brain tissue does not regenerate. Delays in treatment meant increased damaged and consequently, decreased levels of recovery. New technologies and drugs have reduced this time of assessment and treatment drastically, diminishing permanent damage. Permanent disability may also be reduced by the capacity for other parts of the brain to be trained through rehabilitation to take over some of the functions of the damaged area.

[Reproduced from the Home Health Handbook -Brain, Nerve, Muscle and Hormone Disorders]

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What can I do to avoid a stroke?

High blood pressure is the major risk factor in stroke. Have it checked regularly and keep it under control.

Eat a well balanced diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fats.

If you have diabetes, keep it under control. It is linked with an increased risk of stroke.

Do not smoke

Use alcohol in moderation or do not drink at all. Studies show this helps prevent stroke.

Check with your doctor about taking a low dose aspirin on a daily basis.

The latest tip

Tea and apples may reduce the risk of stroke according to a European study. They contain Flavinoids which are vitamin like compounds occurring naturally in tea, fruits and vegetables. Men with a high Flavinoid intake had a 73% lower risk of stroke. Men who drank 4.7 cups of tea a day had a 69% reduced risk of stroke. (Cincinnati Enquirer)







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A stroke is often preceded by transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) which result in no permanent damage. Emergency treatment at this stage often prevents fatal or disabling strokes from occurring later. Get medical treatment immediately. Don’t delay.

Remember: prevention is the best treatment


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Copyright 1997 National Emergency Medicine Assoc., Inc.
Last modified: December 29, 2021