Stroke, also known as embolism, thrombosis, stroke or hemorrhage, depending on the type, occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced. This prevents brain tissue from receiving oxygen and nutrients, causing brain cells to die in just a few minutes. The lack of blood supply can cause, in some cases, permanent brain damage and even death.
Around 120,000 people suffer a stroke each year, of which around 40,000 die. According to data, more than 330,000 Spaniards have some limitation in their functional capacity after having suffered a stroke.
What can be done to prevent a stroke?
If there is one good thing that could be said about stroke, it is that the vast majority of cases could be prevented. It is estimated that one in six people worldwide will suffer a stroke. A figure that could be lower if the risk factors were controlled. According research, up to 80% of cases could be avoided because less than a third of patients who have suffered an ischemic stroke have their risk factors controlled.
Prevention, therefore, is decisive in the appearance of this disease. Therefore, it is essential to maintain a good state of health. Aware of the importance of getting this message across to the general population, the Jiménez Díaz Foundation University Hospital has resumed holding its Stroke School for patients and caregivers , in an online format, to answer the main questions about this disease.
One of the things that experts highlight is the importance of controlling aspects such as blood pressure, reducing the intake of saturated fats, quitting smoking, controlling diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight, following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (five or more servings a day of fruit or vegetables), exercise regularly and reduce alcohol consumption.
“Most strokes can be prevented by controlling a few factors,” acknowledges Dr. Araceli García Torres, a specialist in Neurology and a participant in the meeting.
Identify symptoms and act quickly to reduce sequelae
Listening to the body and knowing how to identify the symptoms can be the difference between saving a life or not. Acting fast can keep the damage as low as possible. Because in stroke, every minute counts. It is estimated that, since the first symptoms appear, thousands of neurons are lost and that, after an artery is blocked, it takes about four and a half hours to recanalize it.
For García Torres, “it is necessary to publicize the main alarm symptoms” so that the emergency services can act as quickly as possible. We must be attentive to symptoms such as difficulty speaking and understanding what others say; paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg; trouble seeing in one or both eyes, blurred vision; headache with vomiting or dizziness; difficulty to walk; drooping of one side of the mouth when smiling.
Most appear without warning, abruptly. The most important thing is to calm down, act quickly, and call 112. The sooner a person gets to the hospital, the better chance doctors can restore blood flow to the affected area.
How to continue caring after hospital discharge
A stroke can have physical, emotional and social consequences not only for the person who has suffered it but also for their closest environment. This complex and challenging clinical condition needs healthcare professionals working together. Multidisciplinary work has been shown to be essential to provide effective and quality care, not only in the hospital, but also after discharge, at home.
Something that the Stroke School is very clear about and for which they are clearly committed. “It is necessary that the treatment of the different therapies be coordinated and aimed at achieving individualized objectives for each patient.”
The most important thing after a stroke is to avoid additional complications, such as “dysphagia to prevent bronchial aspirations and pneumonia-type infections, promote early mobilization to avoid stiffness, etc.”
Physiotherapists, nurses, occupational therapists, neurologists and also speech therapists are essential professionals so that the patient can continue treatment at home. In addition, for those patients who request it, a Web Dialogue is opened through the Patient Portal to help resolve urgent questions with the therapist.
Because, when a person leaves the hospital after a stroke, they may only need a little care, but they may have more complex needs. Part of the treatment should include an assessment of care needs and what kind of support to provide.