Recognizing and Preventing Strokes in Seniors
Stroke in the Elderly
Strokes are devastating and can leave long-term effects that can permanently hamper the lives of seniors. What many people don’t recognize is that strokes are preventable in the majority of cases. However, following a stroke, stroke care at home for the elderly is an option.
A stroke can most accurately be defined as an attack on the brain. Time is crucial in preventing severe brain damage, so it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of a stroke. During a stroke, oxygen is being prevented from reaching the brain for a number of reasons. The longer this persists, the more there’s a chance of negative long-term effects.
What Is a Mini Stroke/Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) in Seniors?
A mini stroke or TIA occurs when oxygen is temporarily blocked from flowing to part of the brain. It’s less severe than a stroke in the sense that it doesn’t kill brain tissue or cause permanent damage. Most symptoms will disappear within 24 hours, however, since the symptoms of TIAs or mini stokes are so similar to strokes, it’s hard to tell the difference. That’s why it’s important for seniors to seek medical attention immediately if they experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.
FAST: Identifying Early Signs of a Stroke
We mentioned that time is crucial when seniors are having a stroke. Minutes can matter, which is why the acronym F.A.S.T. was created. F.A.S.T. stands for:
Time to call 911
Any one or a combination of these warning signs can signal the onset of a stroke. So, you should be aware of these signs in order to spot a stroke and get help in time.
Other Stroke Symptoms in the Elderly
If you experience some or all of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing a stroke and require medical attention immediately. When symptoms are related to a stroke, they will usually appear very suddenly.
A sensation of weakness in the face, arm, or leg that is located on one side of the body can signify that you are experiencing a stroke. If one side of your face is drooping when you attempt to smile, this could be a symptom of a stroke.
Numbness, which can also be described by some as a “pins and needles” feeling throughout any part of the body, may be a sign of stroke.
A severe, sudden headache that appears without any familiar causes can be caused by a stroke. Contrast this to migraine symptoms, which tend to gradually increase in severity during episodes.
Slurred Speech or Inability to Understand Others
Slurred speech, also known as dysarthria, can occur due to your brain being affected by a stroke. You may also have trouble understanding words, also known as aphasia. During a stroke, the part of the brain that deals with language is affected.
Loss of Sensation
The loss of sensation in any part of your body can be a sign of a stroke.
If you have trouble walking, with balance, coordination, and feel dizzy, then this could point to your brain being affected by a stroke.
If you are affected by a stroke, you may have “negative” symptoms such as losing sight in one or both eyes. This is because a stroke has the ability to affect the part of the brain responsible for managing your vision.
How to Prevent a Stroke in the Elderly
There are certain conditions that make some seniors more prone to strokes. Things like age, family history, and even ethnicity play a role in the rates of strokes. None of these factors can be changed or prevented, but there are other factors—such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes—that also contribute to the increased risk of strokes.
healthy diet is one proven way to reduce the change of a stroke. Incorporating physical activity with a healthy diet is also important since obesity and being overweight are also contributing factors for strokes.
Having a nutritious, healthy diet that is balanced and doesn’t contain large amounts of processed or sugary food is an indirect way to reduce your overall risk for cardiovascular diseases. Meals that contain lots of vegetables and fruits; whole grain, high-fiber foods; fish; and lean meats and poultry are all highly recommended by The American Stroke Association.
Reducing High Blood Pressure
When high blood pressure is left unchecked, it damages your brain’s blood vessels. This is part of why hypertension is the biggest contributor to the risk of having a stroke. Additionally, if blood clots form in the arteries that lead to the brain, blocked blood flow may cause a stroke.
Even a minimal weight loss of 10 lb can reduce your risk of getting a stroke. Complications of obesity contribute to risk of stroke. This is due to inflammation caused by excessive amounts of fatty tissue that reduces blood flow and increases risk of blockage.
Incorporating physical activity with a healthy diet is also important since obesity and being overweight are also contributing factors for strokes.
Smoking increases the likelihood of blood clots forming, as well as the amount of plaque in arteries. Every individual has a different risk of experiencing a stroke, even among smokers, but overall, smoking does tend to increase the risk of stroke.
A diabetic’s episodes of high blood sugar can damage blood vessels. If clots form due to this occurring, you may increase your risk of stroke.
Treating Atrial Fibrillation
When you have an irregular heartbeat, common in seniors, this can increase risk of stroke. Beware that atrial fibrillation may be asymptomatic, so consult with your doctor to learn about your heart’s condition.
Researchers Focus Efforts on Stroke Prevention
A big deal is being made over Canada’s aging population. The potential burden on both the health care system and home-care systems can be exhaustive. Focusing on ways to prevent conditions such as strokes is one way to keep seniors healthy and ease some of that burden. Stroke care for seniors will inevitably be needed, but prevention is the key.
In-Home Care for Elderly in Toronto
We at Home Care Assistance – Toronto/York Region understand the challenges of post-stroke care for the elderly. We employ a team of passionate caregivers who are trained to recognize the signs of stroke and act appropriately during its occurrence.
You want someone you can trust caring for your elderly loved ones. Let Home Care Assistance manage some of that responsibility for you. Contact us now if you or someone you love has recently suffered a stroke and is in need of home care.
French, T., “Recognizing and Preventing Strokes in Seniors,” Amada Senior Care, May 19, 2016; http://amadaseniorcare.com/blog/2016/05/19/strokes-in-seniors/.
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