Mt Pleasant News

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Winter Health

A heart attack of the brain

Mt. Pleasant physician says strokes impact people in different ways
Dec 07, 2017

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


To many, a blood clot in the brain is termed a stroke.

But that isn’t the terminology Mt. Pleasant physician Dr. Alfred Savage uses to define the medical condition. He says a stroke is a heart attack of the brain.

“An artery plugged by the heart is a heart attack, and if there is an artery plugged by the brain, I call it a heart attack of the brain,” he explains.

According to the website “UpToDate,” the letters in the word “fast” are some of the warning signs of a stroke— face is uneven; arm is weak; speech is strange; and time to call an ambulance.

However, in many cases, an individual does not know that they’ve suffered a stroke, Savage said. “In older people who have autopsies, we often find that they have had a number of strokes, which they probably thought were dizzy spells.”

The Mt. Pleasant physician said strokes are more common in older people and in men moreso than women. He explained through an analogy to a home’s plumbing. “It’s like the pipes in a house with old plumbing — over time that plumbing is going to deteriorate.”

A stroke’s impact on the patient depends on which part and how much of the brain is affected and how quickly the victim receives treatment. Some people who have a stroke have little or no affect while others lose important brain functions, such as becoming paralyzed or unable to speak. A stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the world, according to the aforementioned website.

Some of the common long-term problems caused by a stroke include speech problems; weakness and mobility problems; partial loss of sensation; trouble eating or swallowing; problems thinking clearly or interacting with others; depression; and bladder control.

Recovery can be slow and is often aided by either speech, occupational or physical therapy, or a combination of two or three different types of therapy.

Chances of a full recovery depend on the size of the stroke; part of the brain effected; age of the person; if the victim had other medical problems such as heart failure or cancer; the health of the person when the stroke occurred; and how quickly the individual was treated following the stroke.

Treatment for people whose strokes were caused by blocked arteries includes reopening clogged arteries and medicine that prevents new blood clots and future strokes.

For individuals whose strokes were caused by bleeding, treatment includes reducing the damage caused by bleeding in or around the brain; either stoppage of medicines that increase bleeding or a lower dosage; and surgery to repair the artery or stop the bleeding.

Fortunately, only about 10 percent of strokes (those resulting in embolisms) are fatal, Savage reported. Eighty percent of strokes are blood clots in the brain and the remaining 10 percent are hemorrhages.

Risk factors listed by Savage are family history, obesity, high blood pressure, age, diabetes and high cholesterol. He added that once you’ve had a stroke, the chances of having another increase.

“For people susceptible to strokes, I would suggest taking a baby aspirin daily, watch your cholesterol and it is wise to get on a medical program,” Savage recommended.

To recover as fully as possible, medical personnel said the stroke victim should stick with rehab and do all the exercises and therapies recommended by the healthcare team. But above all, medical professionals stress patience because it takes time to heal and learn new ways to cope, but work and patience can pay off.

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