It’s American Stroke Month

The month of May marks American Stroke Month. All month long the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are raising awareness about prevention and overcoming a stroke.

To aid in the stroke recovery process, the association recommends building a strong support system to enhance the patient’s quality of life.

According to the American Stroke Association, every year about 796,000 Americans suffer from a new or reoccurring stroke, thus changing their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Becoming a caregiver for a stroke survivor can be a challenging process.

Therefore, the American Stroke Association has provided caregivers with resources to maximize the quality of life after a stroke.

Research has proven that stroke is the number four killer of Americans and is the major cause of severe long-term disability in America.

After a stroke, it is common for problems such as depression, discouragement, anger, fear and aphasia (the inability to use or comprehend words) to develop. As a caregiver, it is important to know when these issues occur and how to handle them properly.

“Depending on the stroke, it’s important that caregivers build a system of support,” said David Gaston MD, neurologist for the Detroit Medical Center. “Caregivers should keep patients as active as possible to encourage some level of independence. It is also important that caregivers get resources from organizations that specialize in assisting stroke patients.”

“Emotional support is important during the recovery process,” said Paulette Carter, former caregiver to a stroke patient. “It is a therapeutic intervention that requires patience, compassion and empathy. Celebrating each therapeutic milestone and providing resources are essential to a healthy recovery.”

Trying to stay on top of appointments, medications, medical bills and other daily life matters can be time consuming.

The association recommends the following tips for caregivers:

– Socialize and seek support: Locate and join a local support group. Joining a support group allows caregivers and survivors an opportunity to create new relationships by sharing ideas and experiences.

– Educate yourself: The more knowledgeable you are about the survivor’s condition, the better care you can provide for them and for yourself. Subscribe to publications such a Stroke Connection Magazine for tips, inspiration and news.

– Accept help: Do not refuse help. Having help makes caring for a survivor much easier. Develop a relationship with the survivor’s doctor and encourage friends and family to partake in the recovery process. Utilize these community resources for additional help: home health aide services, meal programs, homemaker’s assistance, respite care, adult day care and foster homes.

– Refresh yourself: Make time to take care of you. Take a break and don’t forget to enjoy the things that make you happy.

Knowing what to expect in the future is key for giving proper care.

Caregivers are responsible for knowing the warning signs of a stroke.

The association has developed and launched a mobile app for the acronym F.A.S.T (face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911) to help people identify a stroke when it occurs.

The app, Spot a Stroke FAST, not only provides assistance during a stroke, but it also locates primary stroke centers. It is available for download in the App Store and the Google Play Store.

Taking simple actions against even one risk factor can help reduce the risk of joining the faces of stroke.

– Get your blood pressure checked. If it’s high, control it.

– Visit your doctor regularly to monitor your health.

– If you smoke, stop.

– Start physical activity. Try to accumulate at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week.

For women, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America and disproportionately affects women.

In Michigan, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death overall and a major cause of long-term disability.

While many people think of stroke as a condition that affects only seniors, strokes occur in people of all ages.

Practicing the following healthy behaviors can reduce the risk for stroke and offer the greatest potential in reducing disability and death from stroke:

– Avoid all tobacco use.

– Maintain a healthy body weight, and get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

– Monitor blood pressure as hypertension is one of the most common causes of stroke.

– Keep cholesterol in check because high cholesterol can cause blockages.

– Eat a healthy diet including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

– Discuss with your health care provider whether you should consider taking aspirin daily.