Strokes, also known as cerebrovascular accidents, occur when the arteries of the brain become 'blocked' or 'burst', depriving the brain cells of nutrients and oxygen. As a result, the affected nervous tissue die, causing a number of nervous disorders.
Symptoms of a stroke include the following:
- Paralysis of the body and / or limbs
- Slurred speech
- Drooping lip
- Double vision
- In severe cases, the patient may go into a coma or die
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Numbness in part of the body
- Drooling of saliva
Factors increase the risk of stroke:
- Age - the risk of stroke increases with age
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol level
- Lack of exercise
- Congenital brain aneurysms and abnormalities
- Other illnesses such as diabetes, rheumatic heart disease can greatly increase the risk of stroke.
Complications associated with strokes:
- Bed sores
Many stroke victims suffering from paralysis have to be confined to bed for long periods. This causes pressure on their buttocks, heels, shoulder blades, and other parts of their body, resulting in damage to the skin, which may become infected. The best way to prevent bed sores is to keep turning the patient so that he doesn't spend too long in any one position. The use of air cushions and sheepskin can also help.
- Respiratory infections
If a stroke patient spends long periods in bed, his muscle strength will become weaker, and his lung capacity will also decrease. It will be more difficult for the patient to cough up phlegm and is more prone to contract pneumonia. It's important to keep the patient sitting upright in bed as much as possible, and to provide him with chest physiotherapy and breathing exercises, in order to prevent respiratory infections.
- Urinary tract infections
Some stroke victims lose their ability to control urination. Urine retaining in the bladder increases the chance of infection. Preventive measures include inserting a catheter into the bladder to drain urine, and bladder control training.
Treatments for stroke
After a stroke, the patient needs a long period of time for recovery. The patient needs to be psychologically prepared for long term treatment and rehabilitation, and his family needs to provide as much encouragement and support as possible during the rehabilitation period. Recovery from a stroke depends on the severity of the stroke, which differs from case to case. Generally speaking, with the help of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy, many stroke victims can take care of themselves. In some cases, the patient can even return to work. But there's always the risk of recurrence of a stroke, so the patient should be on long term medical follow-up to prevent another stroke.
Preventive measures against strokes
In recent years the number of Hong Kong people suffering from stroke has increased steadily and stroke is now one of the major killer diseases in Hong Kong. The main causes of stroke are smoking, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries, so the best way to prevent stroke is to develop healthy living habits such as:
- Avoid smoking and abusing alcohol.
- Follow a regular schedule of work and rest, avoid stress, and exercise regularly.
- Maintain a balanced diet, avoid high fat and sweet foods and avoid overweight.
- If your blood cholesterol level is high, you should watch your diet, and receive the appropriate treatment if necessary.
- If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you should follow up regularly and receive appropriate treatment.
Prevention is always better than cure. The best way to prevent stroke is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.