Stroke as a Cause of Brain Injury

About Stroke

Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 795,000 Americans suffer strokes each year. Of these people, 185000 – or one in four – have already had at least one stroke in the past. 

Quick facts on stroke

  • Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers a stroke. 
  • About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked. 
  •  Stroke-related costs in the United States amount to over $50 billion dollars every year.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of long-term or lifelong disability. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of survivors who are over 65 years of age. 
  • Patients who arrive at the emergency room within 3 hours of their symptoms experience less disability after a stroke than those who delay seeking treatment. 

Three Types of Stroke

Ischemic Stroke:

An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. These strokes occur when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels to the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke: 

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures

Transient Ischemic Attack: 

Known as a “TIA” or “mini stroke”, transient ischemic attacks are often caused by blood clots. Like strokes, they must be treated as a major medical emergency. TIAs are warning signs of a future stroke.

Signs of Stroke

A common saying about strokes is that “Time=Brain”. The more time that elapses before a stroke victim receives treatment, the more disability and damage will occur to their brain. Because of this, it is critical to recognize the signs of stroke as soon as they occur. Stroke signs and symptoms are summarized by the acronym ‘FAST’, explained in the video below. FAST stands for ‘Face’, ‘Arms’, ‘Speech’, and ‘Time’.

According to the CDC: “The stroke treatments that work best are available only if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within 3 hours of the first symptoms. Stroke patients may not be eligible for these if they don’t arrive to the hospital in time. 

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following test:

F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

Note the time when any symptoms first appear. This information helps health care providers determine the best treatment for each person.

Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call 9-1-1 for an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.”

What to Expect After a Stroke

If you have a stroke, you are at an elevated risk of having a second stroke. Roughly 25% of stroke survivors will have another stroke within 4 years of their first stroke. The risk of having another ischemic stroke within 90 days of the first stroke is as high as 17%, according to data from the CDC. The risk of a second stroke is highest in the week following the first stroke. 

Preventing Another Stroke: If you have a stroke, you are at an elevated risk of having a second stroke. Roughly 25% of stroke survivors will have another stroke within 4 years of their first stroke. The risk of having another ischemic stroke within 90 days of the first stroke is as high as 17%, according to data from the CDC. The risk of a second stroke is highest in the week following the first stroke. 

In order to reduce your risk of experiencing another stroke, it is critical to work with your healthcare team and loved ones to address any underlying health or lifestyle concerns. Underlying causes of stroke include high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (fast, irregular heartbeat), high cholesterol, and diabetes. Your doctor might prescribe medications to address these issues, or suggest lifestyle changes to improve your general wellbeing, blood pressure, and cardio health. Sometimes, surgery will also be recommended. 

Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation after a stroke begins while the survivor is still in the hospital, generally within two days of the stroke. Rehab helps ease the transition between the hospital and home, and can also reduce the risk of another stroke. 

Every stroke is unique, and recovery time after a stroke is different for everyone. It can take weeks, months, or even years. While some people will make a full recovery, others will have some type of lifelong disability as a result of their stroke. 

Visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to learn more about stroke rehabilitation. 

Lingering Symptoms after Stroke: 

  • Problems with understanding and forming speech 
  • Numbness or strange sensations 
  • Trouble with chewing and swallowing 
  • Problems with bladder and bowel control 
  • Issues with concentration, thinking, situational awareness, learning, judgement, and memory 
  • Pain in hands or feet that worsens with movement or temperature changes 
  • Paralysis, weakness, or both on one side of the body 
  • Depression and/or anxiety

 

What does stroke rehabilitation look like?

  • Speech Therapy: helps with producing and understanding speech
  • Occupational Therapy: helps improve ability to do daily activities, including eating, drinking, dressing, reading, and writing
  • Physical Therapy: helps survivors relearn movement and coordination skills that were lost after the stroke

Stroke Resources

Montana Stroke Survivor Connections

Montana Stroke Survivor Connections (MSSC) is a FREE statewide telephone service that provides compassionate and well-informed peer support to stroke survivors as they navigate life after their stroke. This program is facilitated by stroke survivors with the support of the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana.

If you are a stroke survivor or caregiver interested in volunteering as a peer support specialist for Montana Stroke Survivor Connections, give us a call at 406-541-6442 or send us an email at info@biamt.org. 

If you are a recent survivor of stroke who is interested in enrolling in our Montana Stroke Survivor Connections program, fill out our enrollment for by clicking on the link below.