Having a stroke or helping someone who has suffered from one can make for a difficult recovery. The effects associated with strokes vary greatly depending on the type and severity of the stroke. Knowing the extent of the damage caused during the occurrence will allow you to make a plan for rehabilitation. A consulting physician will help you understand what kind of therapy is needed after a stroke.
For someone who is experiencing a stroke, there could be a range of warning signs. Understanding what’s happening when you detect them will help the patient to be treated faster, leading to a better chance of recovery. These are some of the warning signs of a stroke:
- Slurring words or having trouble speaking. Instances in which you are finding it difficult to understand what the affected person is saying when it’s ordinarily not a problem.
- Someone who is disoriented.
- The affected person reporting experiencing paralysis or numbness in the face, arm, or leg. An inability to raise both arms, or drooping on one side of the mouth may be an indication. Strokes often affect one side of the body.
- Blurred, blackened, or double-vision, thus making it difficult to see out of both eyes.
- A sudden and severe headache that could come with vomiting, dizziness, or extreme confusion.
- Difficulty walking, loss of balance, stumbling, or loss of coordination.
If any of these signs are occurring, it’s time to seek medical attention. Even if the symptoms come and go or subside altogether, emergency services should be contacted immediately. The longer you wait for treatment, the greater the potential for disability and brain damage following a stroke.
Three Main Types of Stroke
Strokes are debilitating and can cause death. The good news is that in current times, fewer Americans die from a stroke than they have in the past. This is due to everyone’s awareness of the signs of a stroke and acting quickly.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. As the brain’s blood vessels narrow or become blocked, blood flow becomes severely reduced (ischemia). The blood vessels get blocked or become narrow due to fatty deposits building up in the blood. The clots traveling through the bloodstream get lodged in the brain’s blood vessels.
Hemorrhagic strokes occur due to a leak or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. It can happen due to conditions that affect blood vessels. Less commonly, brain bleeds can occur due to a rupture of an abnormal tangle when blood vessel walls are thin. Causes of a hemorrhagic stroke include:
- High blood pressure left uncontrolled
- Taking too many blood thinners
- Weak spots in the walls of blood vessels
- Extreme head trauma
- Protein deposits in the walls of blood vessels that can cause weakness of the walls
- An ischemic stroke that leads to hemorrhaging
Transient Ischemic (Mini-Stroke)
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a period of temporary stroke symptoms. TIAs don’t typically cause permanent damage. When there’s a temporary decrease in blood supply to a particular part of the brain, the affected person could be experiencing a TIA. It could last as little as five minutes. Similar to the ischemic stroke, it occurs if a clot blocks or slows blood flow to a particular part of your nervous system. The affected person should seek medical attention even if their symptoms have improved. A physician has to determine whether it was a TIA or a stroke. Additionally, having a transient ischemic attack increases the risk of having another stroke later.
Making yourself aware of possible risk factors that could cause a stroke will help you avoid certain behaviors that increase the likelihood of a stroke. You should be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms:
- Physical idleness
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
- Use of drugs, such as cocaine or meth-amphetamines
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- First and secondhand cigarette smoke exposure
- Sleep apnea
- Heart conditions
- Family history of stroke, heart attack, or TIA
- People older than fifty-five years of age
- African Americans are at higher risk than others
- Men are at a higher risk than women
- Hormone therapies can increase the risk of a stroke
What To Do
You now know the different types of strokes and their warning signs. Risk factors are important to note, but some medical conditions are unavoidable. As previously discussed, every minute counts, so any indication that you or someone near you is experiencing stroke symptoms needs immediate medical attention.
Most often when a stroke occurs, the rehabilitation centers around physical therapy. This helps the patient relearn gross motor activities such as walking, balancing, standing, sitting, and laying down, in addition to physically changing movements. Some therapy may be done at home on a daily basis, while other therapy options require outpatient procedures.
Many have found that equine or hippotherapy (horseback riding therapy) has been immensely helpful in regaining control of the body. The muscles from one’s foot all the way up to the brain have to work simultaneously to keep the rider on the horse. Not only is balance, core, back, leg, and arm strength improved, but this type of therapy also stimulates the brain. As the brain starts to work to repair areas of the body where there is a delay or lack of control, the recovery begins to become evident.
For those who prefer to keep their therapy within the office, Chariot Innovations has created assistive technology to help achieve horseback riding therapy benefits without the need for a real horse. The MiraColt is hippotherapy simulator equipment that mimics the walking gait of a horse to give those working to rehabilitate their bodies and minds the ability and option to receive treatment like this in a controlled environment with support from nearby professionals.
Rehabilitative therapy usually begins 48 hours after the patient’s condition has stabilized. It starts by having the person attempt independent movement to try to overcome weakness or partial paralysis. Using hippotherapy to strengthen different areas can be done at any pace. Gradually releasing the professional’s need to support the patient’s body as they start being able to stabilize themselves will require less assistance.
Having a stroke isn’t the end of the road. Of course, the level of recovery depends on the severity of the event. Additionally, it is very important to take the warning signs of a stroke seriously and get to a physician as soon as possible. Knowing how to avoid any unnecessary risk is key in preventing a stroke. Understanding what kind of therapy is needed after a stroke will help make the recovery process easier.