Caregiving Stroke Care

Understanding and Preventing Strokes in Seniors

Did you know that strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States? They’re more common than you might think. According to the CDC, approximately 795,000 Americans suffer from strokes each year and nearly 15 million Americans are living with some type of disability due to a stroke.

Because strokes are also one of the leading causes of adult disability in the United States, we want to help you understand what a stroke really is and how it can be prevented in your senior loved ones.

 

What is a stroke?

A stroke, simply put, is a brain attack. It happens when blood flow to the brain is stopped or reduced, causing damage to the brain tissue.

The majority of strokes are caused by a blood clot, called an artery blockage or arterial thrombosis. When this happens, oxygen-rich blood can’t reach your brain and may cause permanent damage if not treated quickly.

Strokes can also happen without warning when an artery bursts in the wall of an artery in your neck or head. This type of stroke can cause bleeding into brain tissue that decreases blood flow and leads to permanent neurological damage if it’s not treated immediately within hours after symptoms begin. This kind of stroke usually begins by appearing on one side of your body, usually with sudden weakness or numbness in one arm or leg.

 

Who is at risk for strokes?

The risk of having a stroke increases substantially as people age. People over the age of 65 are about 50% more likely than younger people to have a stroke. Women in particular are more likely to experience a stroke than men.

Among older people, strokes are more common among those who have family members with stroke or heart disease. The risk is even higher if one or both parents had them before age 65, and can double your risk for having one yourself.

In addition to aging and family medical history, there are other factors that can increase the risk of having a stroke. These include

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol levels
  • Smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke regularly
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2) – Some people with type 1 diabetes may be at higher risk because their bodies produce less insulin than normal; however, it’s not clear whether treating this condition with insulin injections reduces this risk.
  • Obesity – Being obese or overweight increases the chances of having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which are both risk factors for stroke.

Although strokes are a frightening prospect, the good news is that it’s possible to take steps both to prevent them and treat their effects once they occur.

 

Understanding and Preventing Strokes

 

What can I do to prevent a stroke for my senior loved one?

Although you cannot change your age or your family’s medical history, you may be able to reduce the risk of stroke for your loved one by helping them make some changes in their lifestyle.

You can help your senior loved one prevent a stroke by:

  • Keeping blood pressure under control. Since high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes are two of the most common risk factors for stroke, it’s important to keep them under control with medication and lifestyle changes as needed.
  • Not smoking or drinking alcohol excessively. Smoking increases the risk of having a stroke by up to 50%, while excessive alcohol consumption can increase that risk even further–especially if you’re over 65 years old!
  • Eating well. Maintain a diet that helps you avoid high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels. This means eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. If you have diabetes or heart disease, talk to your doctor about following a diet that’s recommended for those conditions.
  • Exercising regularly. Exercise has several benefits, including reducing stress levels, improving your mood and helping you sleep better. Regular exercise can also help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All it takes is about 30 minutes of exercise each day!

 

How do I know if my senior loved one has had a stroke?

Unfortunately, not everyone can avoid the danger of having a stroke.

Recognizing the signs of a stroke can make a big difference in your loved one’s recovery. Some of the most common signs of stroke include:

  • Speech difficulties, like slurred speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Numbness in face, arm or leg on one side of the body; this may include a drooping eyelid on the same side as the numbness
  • Sudden confusion
  • Vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or difficulty walking correctly
  • Severe and sudden headache

If you suspect that your senior loved one has had a stroke, get medical help immediately. If the signs are unclear, and you aren’t sure if your loved one experienced a stroke or not, it would be safer to call 911 anyway to be sure.

 

Understanding and Preventing Strokes

 

Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke rehabilitation can be a long and difficult process, but there are many things you can do to help your loved one on their road to recovery.

First, make sure you have a plan ready just in case your loved one has a stroke. This will be helpful in the event that you need to get your loved one immediate medical attention and will help you stay calm during a stressful situation. If you don’t have an emergency plan already in place, take some time to make one now. You may want to discuss with your loved one what they would like done in case of emergency, so they are comfortable with their decision and know that it’s what they want.

Once a loved one is in the rehabilitation process, make sure they get plenty of rest and that they have plenty of help with their day-to-day living. Strokes tend to leave people feeling extremely tired, so make sure they rest as much as possible. Encourage them not to rush back into daily activities too quickly; doing so could cause another stroke or other complications.

In the event that your loved one needs additional help as they are recovering, you may want to consider seeking for help from professionals, including our team at Home Care Assistance Dayton. Our team is always ready to step in and provide specialized stroke recovery care in the Dayton, OH area. Our caregivers are trained to work with individuals who have suffered a stroke, and they will provide the support and assistance your loved one needs. They can help with daily tasks like dressing, bathing, grooming and meal preparation so that your family member is able to focus on their recovery without having to worry about the everyday tasks of life.

 

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that strokes can be scary, but if you know what to look for and how to prevent them, then you can help yourself or your loved one stay safe. The most important thing is to remember that if you think something is wrong with your brain or body, don’t wait! Go see a doctor right away–you could save yourself from having a stroke by acting now instead of later.

Need In Home Care for Your Love One?

Home Care Assistance of Dayton can help you or a loved one today.

Contact us now for a complimentary in-home or virtual assessment.

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