Stroke: recognizing the symptoms and providing aftercare

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted after a blood vessel breaks or a blood clot blocks an artery. When this happens, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. According to the National Stroke Association, when brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities might include speech, movement and memory. How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.

The Mayo Clinic lists several symptoms to watch for that may indicate that someone is having a stroke:

  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of coordination
  • Confusion, or trouble speaking or understanding
  • Numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg
  • Blurred, blackened or double vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden, severe headache which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or confusion

If you notice any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Quick action is critical to stroke recovery because early treatment can minimize brain damage, and brain damage caused by stroke is irreversible.

If you’re not sure if someone is having a stroke, follow the act FAST guidelines. FAST is an acronym to help you remember what to look for and what to do:

FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Can they do it accurately and without slurring?

TIME – If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is critical, and you should seek medical help immediately.

If someone you love has a stroke, it is important to understand that stroke rehabilitation cannot reverse the effects of a stroke; it simply helps the individual return to independent living as much as possible. This can place a strain on the stroke victim’s personal relationships. According to Today’s Caregiver magazine, “Caring for a stroke survivor can be emotionally, mentally and physically stressful”. 

Caregivers will need to be prepared to help the person get the mobility equipment they need, assist with bathing and other personal care needs, help with cooking, and perhaps help manage the person’s finances. “Caregivers can support their loved one and encourage small accomplishments, which mean a lot to someone who has to relearn a once-mastered skill,” said Janie Rosman, staff writer for Today's Caregiver

Fortunately there are some things that can be done to prevent the risk of stroke. The Neurological Institute at University Hospitals Richmond Medical Center identifies these factors as contributing to the risk of stroke: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and smoking. Controlling these factors may help reduce the risk of stroke.

The National Stroke Association can be reached at 800-787-6537, the University Hospitals Richmond Medical Center can be reached at 440-585-6137, and the website for Today’s Caregiver Magazine is

Judith Eugene

Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides life-enrichment classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges through She may be reached at 216-408-5578 or

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 6:39 PM, 10.01.2013