Every year, approximately 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke. When an older family member has a stroke, it can lead to a lot of questions for family caregivers. It can also mean a major change in caregiver duties. One way to know that you are doing everything you can to help your aging relative is by learning as much about stroke as you can. The first step is learning what a stroke is and how it affects the brain.
How a Stroke Occurs
A stroke happens when blood flow to part of the brain is stopped or restricted. This means that the brain isn’t getting the oxygen or nutrients it needs. Within minutes, brain tissue begins to die. The blood flow can be affected in one of two ways:
- An artery can be blocked by a clot.
- A blood vessel can break and leak blood.
There are three main kinds of stroke. They are:
- Ischemic Stroke: An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when blood flow is blocked or arteries become so narrowed that blood flow is impeded. This happens because of fatty deposits that build up on the walls of the artery or because of blood clots that travel through the blood stream.
- Hemorrhagic Stroke: This kind of stroke happens when a blood vessel breaks. A hemorrhagic stroke can happen because of underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure or a head injury due to an accident.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is sometimes called a mini stroke. It happens when blood flow is temporarily restricted. Though they typically don’t cause lasting damage, they can be a sign of a more serious stroke to follow.
Preventing a Second Stroke
An older adult who has had a stroke is at higher risk of having another, so it’s important to take steps to prevent this from occurring. Some ways to reduce stroke risks are:
- Keep blood pressure under control.
- Reduce cholesterol and saturated fat in the senior’s diet.
- Quit smoking.
- Manage diabetes.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Lose weight.
Elder care can help your older family member to reduce their chances of having another stroke. Elder care providers can prepare healthy meals and snacks. An elder care provider can also remind the senior to take medications for blood pressure and diabetes. In addition, an elder care provider can help the older adult to increase their physical activity and encourage them while they try to quit smoking.