FAQs: Stroke – your common questions, answered
Posted on 9 September 2019
Dr Melanie Stander, Mediclinic’s Emergency Medicine Manager, answers frequently asked questions about stroke.
WHAT IS A STROKE?
A stroke, also known as a brain attack or a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), affects the blood vessels in the brain. It occurs when blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients to a part of the brain suddenly become blocked or burst. The affected brain cells die and may be permanently damaged.
WHAT HAPPENS TO SOMEONE WHO HAS SUFFERED A STROKE?
The brain damage can cause a loss of abilities – including movement, speech and memory. The severity and location of the stroke will determine the signs and symptoms caused by each stroke.
ARE STOKE AND HEART DISEASE RELATED?
Stroke and heart disease are related because each is a risk factor of the other. Various types of heart disease are risk factors for stroke, and stroke itself is a risk factor for coronary heart disease
HOW COMMON IS IT?
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, every hour, ten people in South Africa will have a stroke. Every 15 minutes someone dies from a stroke, while 60% of stroke deaths are women.
HOW DO I KNOW IF SOMEONE IS SUFFERING STROKE?
FAST is an acronym to help you remember the early signs of a stroke.
Face drooping. One side of the face droops or is numb. When asked to smile, the person’s smile looks uneven.
Arm weakness. One arm could feel weak or numb. When asked to raise both arms with both eyes closed, one of the person’s arms will drift downward.
Speech difficulty. The person could have trouble speaking. Speech will sound slurred, or the words will be hard to understand. When asked to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue,” the person will have trouble repeating it correctly.
Time to call for help. If the person shows any of the above symptoms, call ER24 on 084 124 or an Emergency Centre on 0800 051 051.
Even if the symptoms pass, it’s important that you get the person to a hospital quickly.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN STROKE RISK FACTORS?
- High blood pressure
- High bad cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation
- Too much alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Unhealthy diet
HOW IS STROKE TREATED?
Brain damage due to a stroke can be limited by early focused care by a multi-disciplinary team of trained healthcare professionals.
Mediclinic hospitals provides specialised care for stroke patients. It is very important for a stroke patient to receive proper care and treatment as soon as possible.
Brain damage due to a stroke can be minimised when treatment is provided as soon as possible after the stroke.
WHAT HAPPENS AT MEDICLINIC WHEN YOU HAVE SUFFERED A STROKE?
Patients presenting with the acute signs and symptoms of a stroke are treated as an emergency if these symptoms are present for a few hours. They will be prioritised in the Emergency Centre and be sent for urgent brain imaging. A process will be followed where they will be assessed by a multi-disciplinary team to determine which treatment pathway should be initiated to ensure the best possible outcomes.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A STROKE?
Rehabilitation is a large part of the recovery process following a stroke. Some patients may experience spontaneous recovery (a return of physical abilities lost during a stroke). This process can be enhanced with rehabilitation.
WHAT CAN A I DO TO LOWER MY RISK OF STROKE?
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day
- Follow a healthy diet that includes more good fats and less bad fats
- Check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar once a year
During September, National Heart and Stroke Awareness Month, visit a participating Mediclinic for free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. Find your nearest screening centre here.