How to Recognize and Prevent Stroke in Seniors

Could Your Elderly Loved One Be at Risk for Stroke?

Strokes present frightening possibilities to seniors and their loved ones. Ranging from mild to severe, strokes can cause a wide variety of symptoms including loss of speech, dizziness, weakness, headaches, and even death. The severity of the stroke depends on numerous factors, some of which are hereditary and some of which can be reduced or managed based on health and lifestyle. If you fear that your loved one may be at risk for stroke, it’s important that you understand what causes a stroke, what the symptoms are, and what you should do if you suspect that your senior loved one has been the victim of a stroke.

What Causes a Stroke?

A stroke happens when cells in the brain die, affecting a person’s ability to function normally. Sometimes this happens because a narrow blood vessel becomes clogged, cutting off blood supply to the brain, and sometimes the stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel begins to leak blood into the brain. Risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Genetic factors
  • Gender
  • Previous stroke or heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of physical activity

Not all of these symptoms are within an individual’s control, but some of them can be managed in order to reduce your loved one’s risk of a stroke. If you believe your elderly loved one may be at risk, talk to your doctor about how you can implement lifestyle changes to improve health.

How Do You Know if Your Loved One is Having a Stroke?

Stroke is often called the “silent killer” because it happens quickly and seemingly without warning. One minute, a person will be acting and speaking normally, and the next, he or she might experience a loss of speech, inability to move one side of the body, or loss of consciousness. How do you know if your loved one may be experiencing a stroke? Look for these symptoms:

  • Weakness or inability to move an arm or leg
  • Lost control of facial muscles resulting in a droopy or sagging face, especially on one side
  • Slurred speech
  • Speaking gibberish or being unable to put sentences together
  • Lack of coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Loss of consciousness

If your loved one experiences any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Minutes count when you’re dealing with loss of blood to the brain, and an ambulance will take your loved one to the hospital where treatment can begin as quickly as possible.

How Can You Help Your Loved One Recover From Stroke?

The first step in treating a stroke patient is to get him or her to the hospital as quickly as possible. Doctors will work to correct the loss of blood flow. Once your loved one comes home from the hospital, however, he or she will still need additional care. It may take many months to recover motor skills and speech skills, and sometimes the affected person may not fully recover all of his or her faculties. Physical therapy can help, so talk to your doctor to find  out whether such services are recommended. Each stroke case is different, and may require different treatment options.

It is extremely important that recovering stroke victims receive support from family and caregivers. One common side affect of stroke is the development of depression as the patient struggles to relearn things affected by the stroke. Daily interaction and assistance from a family member or in-home caregiver can make a big difference in the patient’s outlook. Support groups are also available to help you and your loved ones work through all of the effects of the stroke.

Once immediate health needs have been met, talk to your doctor about how you can make important changes in your loved one’s diet, activity level, or medication to help prevent the possibility of a reoccurrence.

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