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Early identification saves lives

Stroke is one of the most debilitating and devastating conditions one can experience that often leaves the patient paralysed and mentally immobilised. As a result, the patient is unable to continue normally with their lives, however advances in medicine have allowed for early detection of stroke, better management and significantly improved outcomes that can save brain functioning.

“A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that is carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain becomes blocked by a clot or ruptures. When this happens, the affected part of the brain “dies” as it cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs,” explains Dr. Riyas Fadal, National Manager of Life Rehabilitation, at Life Healthcare.

It is not possible to predict what effect a stroke will have on a person as this varies from patient to patient dependent on the affected area of the brain however, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of a stroke as FAST action can minimise complications that may occur if the patient is left unattended for a prolonged period of time. “The most effective way of identifying a stroke is by using the F.A.S.T method which stands for face, arms, speech and time,” says Dr. Fadal.

FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call for help immediately.

“Stroke is no longer a risk associated exclusively with older generations as large numbers of younger patients are suffering strokes on a daily basis. Strokes happen as frequently as heart attacks and could even be considered as a ‘brain attack,” explains Dr. Fadal.

If you or a family member suspects someone is having a stroke, it is critically important that you transport them to the nearest emergency room for immediate evaluation and early treatment as to reduce the effects associated with stroke. A patient that has suffered a stroke should be seen within the first 24 hours by a specialised stroke team.

Life Rehabilitation constitutes a significant portion of the acute rehabilitation services in South Africa and treatments are designed to assess each patient to create an individual treatment plan. “Whether it be physical or movement related or even to optimise brain function, memory and analytical functioning,” says Dr. Fadal.

Time is of utmost importance when a patient has suffered a stroke as fast action will assist in ensuring patients return back to independence in a shorter period of time. The outcome after suffering a stroke is largely influenced by how quickly a patient gets access to medical assistance. At Life Rehabilitation, treatment plans are individually created according to the patients’ needs and any associated complications such as deep venous thrombosis (DVT), dysphagia, aspiration, depression and musculoskeletal pain are closely monitored and treated.

A healthy lifestyle plays a critical role in mitigating the risk of having a stroke. “Healthy eating and frequent exercise improves your blood lipid profile, lowers your risk of coronary heart disease, decreases your risk of high blood pressure and lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes which is one of the leading causes of stroke,” concludes Dr. Fadal.
Should you require assistance for a family member who has suffered a stroke, you can contact:

• Life Rehabilitation – (011) 219 9620
• Stroke Aid – (011) 882 1612 / (012) 993 2610
• The Heart & Stroke Foundation – (021) 422 1586
• The independent living centre – (011) 482 5474
• Stroke Help Line – 0861 101 1066

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