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What is a Stroke and how is it Treated?

What is a Stroke and how is it Treated?

What is a Stroke and how is it Treated?

Wednesday June 23, 2021

According to the American Stroke Association, “stroke is the number five cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.” The good news is that many of the risk factors that may put someone at danger for a stroke can be mitigated by lifestyle changes or through managing other medical conditions. It is important to talk to your doctor to determine your current odds of a stroke and what steps you can take to help reduce any risk.  

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when a part of the brain is deprived of oxygen because of a blood clot causing blockage or rupture in a blood vessel. There are three common types of strokes:

  1. Ischemic stroke – occurs when a clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain.
  2. Hemorrhagic stroke – occurs when a blood vessel ruptures because of a blood clot.
  3. Transient ischemic attack (TIA) – this is also known as a “mini stroke.” The symptoms of this stroke typically resolve on their own. However, it is imperative that they be immediately evaluated and treated by a physician. It can be a warning sign that a larger stroke may occur in the future.

Signs and symptoms


A number of organizations use the acronym FAST to help identify symptoms of a possible stroke. If you notice any of the following signs in yourself or others, it is important to call 911 immediately. Quick medical intervention is critical in helping to reduce the risk of death or disability.  

  • F – face drooping
  • A – arm weakness
  • S – speech difficulty
  • T – time to call 911

Other symptoms may include trouble with eyesight, a severe headache, and loss of balance and coordination.

How is a stroke treated?

A stroke is always an emergency and should be treated at a hospital. Upon arrival, a brain scan will be done for diagnosis and identification of the type of stroke that has occurred.

After diagnosis, medications that break up blood clots are often administered to stabilize stroke patients. Various procedures and surgical intervention may be necessary depending on the type of stroke and how it has affected the brain.

Rehabilitation after a stroke

Once a patient is stabilized and is able to be discharged from the hospital, rehabilitation may be needed to help regain functioning. Rehabilitation needs are highly personal and vary from person to person depending on which abilities have been impacted by the stroke episode. Some people may require only minimal rehabilitation intervention while others may need months of in-patient care. iStock-950649706(resize).jpg

The following rehabilitation therapies may be used:

  • Speech therapy – helps regain not only lost language skills, but also focuses on helping patients learn how to eat and address any issues with swallowing.
  • Physical therapy – focuses on recovering any loss of physical abilities. This may include learning how to reuse one’s hand, arm, or completely learning to walk again.
  • Occupational therapy – uses everyday tasks as rehabilitation. This can include such acts like getting dressed, retrieving items from kitchen cabinets, and getting into and out of a car. Occupational therapy can also help patients adapt hobbies to meet current level of functioning so that favorite activities can still be enjoyed.

When choosing a rehabilitation facility, it is important to make sure that it is able to meet all of your loved one’s needs. Ask if they have a specific stroke treatment program, when it began, and how many patients they see come through the program.

How to prevent a stroke

Your doctor should evaluate your risk of stroke and offer guidelines on lifestyle changes that can reduce the possibility of a stroke recurring or happening in the first place. Some things that they may suggest include:

  • Regulate your blood pressure. If yours is high, your physician can prescribe medication and suggest lifestyle changes to help bring it down.
  • Exercise. Staying active has so many health benefits, including helping to prevent strokes and other cardiovascular complications. If you don’t currently have an exercise program, talk to your doctor about a healthy way to get started. Walking can be a great place to start.
  • Manage your weight. Being overweight can greatly increase your risk of stroke. Exercise is a great way to help lose or manage your weight as well as looking at your diet and making necessary changes. Once again, your doctor can help you navigate the safest way for you to lose those extra pounds.
  • Get any health conditions under control. Certain health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes raise the risk of strokes. With regular physicals, your doctor can diagnose any underlying disease and help you bring them under control through lifestyle changes or medication.
  • Quit smoking. Along with many other health concerns, smoking also increases your odds of a stroke. Your doctor can recommend a smoking cessation program and other aides to help you kick the habit.

Knowing what a stroke is, the signs and symptoms, and your personal risk factors can help prevent a stroke or help you quickly identify when emergency intervention is needed. If you or a loved one needs care after a stroke, please call Abramson care managers at 215.371.3400. A care manager is available to speak 24 hours a day, seven days a week.