Mar

08

2013

Understanding and Seeking Help for a Stroke

Adam Brickler, Psy.D

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that stroke is the number one cause of death among Americans, estimating that approximately 130,000 stroke-related deaths occur each year.  As the CDC.org website points out, this equates to about 1 out of every 18 deaths.  Annually, almost 800,000 individuals in the United States suffer a cerebrovascular accident, another term for a stroke.  The vast majority of these strokes are a result of blood clots that block the flow of blood to various regions of the brain.  Common symptoms of a cerebrovascular accident include body part numbness or weakness, dizziness, balance problems, confusion, speech difficulties, nausea and vomiting, and headache.  Those persons who have hypertension, high cholesterol, and/or who are smokers are at a greater risk of suffering a stroke, as are individuals who possess a family history of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

Early recognition and action when experiencing stroke-like symptoms is a key factor in limiting the damage caused by a CVA, and improving ones chances of recovery.  The National Stroke Association has developed an effective and simple method for determining whether a friend, family member or coworker is suffering a stroke termed F.A.S.T., which can be accessed on their website, Stroke.org.  F stands for Face: Ask the person to smile and see if one side of his/her face droops.  A refers to Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms and determine whether one arm slowly descends. S indicates Speech: Ask the individual to repeat a simple phrase and check to see if he/she is slurring words or talking in a nonsensical fashion.  Lastly, T stands for Time: If any of these symptoms or signs are noted, 911 should be immediately dialed so that the person demonstrating these warning signs can be medically evaluated, ASAP. 

Although predicting recovery from stroke can be difficult, research has suggested that, as a rule of thumb, the severity of the initial symptoms typically corresponds to one’s recovery.  In other words, the worse the person’s deficits at the onset of the stroke the less likely he/she will fully recover cognitive or physical functioning.  However, researchers have been hard at work attempting to more accurately measure symptom severity in order to more accurately predict outcomes.  Another predictor of stroke recovery is one’s engagement in comprehensive stroke rehabilitation soon after the CVA.  This usually includes physical, occupational, and speech therapy, as well as neuropsychological/psychological assessment.  The clinical staff at Edelson & Associates does provide neuropsychological evaluation and psychological services for those recovering from stroke in order to determine preparedness to return to desired and necessary activities, recommend additional treatments, and establish a baseline of cognitive functioning, which can be used for comparison at a later date.  Additionally, psychotherapeutic services are provided to treat the emotional side effects associated with such a significant life trauma.  These services play an important role in helping individuals and their families reestablish healthy and safe lifestyles in the wake of a stroke.       

 


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