Life after a brain stroke: What you should know

Brain stroke can be debilitating as it affects the brain by cutting off the oxygen supply causing long-term disabilities. If treated within the ‘golden period’ of 4.5 hours, the outcomes are better.

Published: 27th October 2022 07:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2022 07:53 PM   |  A+A-

Brain health

Image for representational purpose. (Express Illustration)

Over the last three decades, incidences of brain stroke have ballooned in India. India’s contribution to the global brain stroke burden has also ballooned. Despite this, a survey titled ‘State of stroke - A Survey on Awareness About Stroke in Urban India’ commissioned by Boehringer Ingelheim India and conducted by IPSOS, found that less than one in four Indians were aware of the risk factors of a brain stroke.

While Indians and South Asians are more susceptible to suffering from brain stroke., Unhealthy lifestyle patterns, inadequate exercise, and poor diets are major risk factors behind the rising brain stroke burden in India.  Though sometimes fatal, many patients recover from the condition with proper care and medical supervision, going on to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

The road to recovery

Brain stroke can be debilitating as it affects the brain by cutting off the oxygen supply causing long-term disabilities. If treated within the ‘golden period’ of 4.5 hours, the treatment outcomes are better.

Patients in recovery face multiple challenges related to motor control due to partial paralysis, aphasia, pain, and numbness in parts of the body, among others. Patients also experience chronic pain due to damage to the nervous system and the inactivity of the body. Many brain stroke patients face problems with language and memory during the recovery process. Nonetheless, these problems can be countered gradually and depending upon the level of impairment, patients can be offered customized therapies. These could include physical therapy and medical assistance to help with motor functions and even speech therapy and psychological assistance.

ALSO READ | ABC of brain stroke

The recovery process depends on the extent of brain damage and can sometimes take months. However, that should not hinder an individual’s desire to live and enjoy a fulfilling life. Adopting a positive attitude towards life, being patient, and attempting to avoid emotional anguish by seeking the support of their loved ones can go a long way in aiding recovery.

 Identifying brain stroke symptoms with BE-FAST

Boehringer Ingelheim’s survey also found that only 25% respondents could recall 2-3 FAST symptoms. Therefore, remembering the acronym BE-FAST could be extremely helpful in getting quick medical care.

  • B: Loss of Balance.
  • E: Loss of vision in one or both Eyes.
  • F: One side of the Face is drooping.
  • A: Feeling of weakness or numbness in one of the Arms.
  • S:  Slurring in Speech. Is the patient unable to speak or understand others?
  • T: Time to call the emergency services and try to get emergency care at the earliest.

This should not only be remembered by patients but also caregivers who can take appropriate action in case their near ones experience a brain stroke. Therefore, higher awareness about brain stroke symptoms is extremely necessary.

Preventing a stroke

Brain stroke patients must be extremely careful of their health and abide by strict guidelines. Among other things, they could:

  • Adopt a healthy diet: Patients must avoid foods with high cholesterol, salt, and saturated fat content. They should adopt a healthier diet to be able to live a fulfilling life.
  • Quit smoking and limit alcohol: Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for brain stroke. Needless to say, recovering brain stroke patients should quit smoking to reduce the likelihood of a second brain stroke. Additionally, they must reduce their alcohol intake to keep the body free from substances that could trigger unpleasant consequences.
  • Exercise in moderation: Mild exercise can not only help in physical fitness but also help psychologically. They should adhere to a proper exercise regimen and seek the advice of medical professionals so that they don’t strain themselves. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Take medicines on time: Patients should adhere to the medications prescribed by their doctors.  Discontinuing medication without a doctor’s approval is not advisable.
  • Monitor health: Those with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease, and high cholesterol levels must monitor their health continuously. They must note that high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels are risk factors for a brain stroke. It is advisable to take precautionary measures to keep the contributing factors in check.

ALSO READ | Surviving strokes

Patients must remember that brain stroke is a lifestyle disease. However, one does not need to put a full stop to living a healthy life. Small but gradual steps, such as regular physical exercise, reduced alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco intake, and a healthy diet can help substantially. These steps will also reduce the likelihood of risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even diabetes from worsening.  For patients with these risk factors, regular monitoring and consultation with medical professionals should be highly prioritized.  Finally, reducing stress, developing new hobbies, and adopting a positive approach towards life can be powerful tools to stay healthy.

Dr Kailas Mirche is a Neurologist at Citizens Speciality Hospital, Hyderabad


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