A stroke is a medical emergency. In the U.S., it is the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain bursts or is blocked by a clot. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die.
The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions. If a stroke occurs and blood flow can't reach the region of the brain that controls a particular body function, then that part of the body won't work properly.
The effects of a stroke depend on the location of the blockage and the amount of brain tissue affected. Because one side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body, a stroke affecting one side of the brain will result in limited activity on the opposite side of the body. If a stroke happens in one of the following areas, some or all of these problems and changes might occur:
Right brain: Can cause paralysis on the left side of the body; vision problems; quick, inquisitive behavioral style; and memory loss.
Left brain: Can cause paralysis on the right side of the body; speech and/or language problems; slow, cautious behavioral style; and memory loss.
Brain stem: Affects both sides of the body and can cause coordination difficulties.
Some of the unchangeable risk factors associated with a stroke include:
Age: The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
Heredity (family history): Stroke risk is greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother had a stroke.
Race: African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians. This is partly because, on average, people in this group tend to have a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Gender: Stroke is more common in men than in women.
Prior stroke, mini-stroke (also known as TIA) or heart attack: The risk of stroke for someone who already had a stroke is many times higher than that of a person who has not.
Stroke risk factors that can be changed or decreased:
High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. All these can be monitored and controlled
Tobacco use. If you smoke, stop.
Poor eating habits.
If you or someone you know has had a stroke, help and support is available. Northern Arizona Healthcare's EntireCare Rehab & Sports Medicine has speech language pathologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists with specific training in treating stroke patients with the latest interventions to help stroke patients live life to the fullest. Stroke survivor programs are also available:
EntireCare sponsors a free Stroke Survivor Support Group from 4 to 5:30 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood.
The group is open to patients, family members, caregivers and anyone interested in learning about stroke prevention, treatment and care options. Light refreshments will be served. For more information about EntireCare Rehab & Sports Medicine's Stroke Survivor Support Group, call 928-282-6775.
EntireCare's six-day Stroke Boot Camp is held four times a year at Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood and involves tasks intense enough for neuroplasticity, or change in the brain's pathways. Patients work to restore function, decrease fall risk and improve quality of life. For more information, call 928-639-6383.
EntireCare has locations in Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Sedona and Flagstaff.
460 W. Finnie Flat Road
Cottonwood - VVMC
269 S. Candy Lane
Flagstaff - FMC
1215 N. Beaver St.
Flagstaff - East
7810 N. Highway 89, #280
35 Dry Creek Road., #4
Village of Oak Creek
6560 Highway 179, #118
-- Provided by Verde Valley Medical Center