"'Time is Brain' when it comes to treatment and brain health after a stroke," Dr. Ali Krisht, director of the Arkansas Neuroscience Institute at CHI St. Vincent, said when asked about stroke treatment and care.
Think of a stroke as a brain attack. Someone who has a stroke either has a clot or a bleeding blood vessel in the brain. And the brain doesn't get enough oxygen. Without oxygen, brain cells start to die within minutes. And once they're dead, they can't be replaced.
Treatment Options for a Stroke
For a stroke caused by a blood clot, a drug called tPA is used. That stands for tissue plasminogen activator. It dissolves the blood clots that cause stroke. This drug dramatically reduces the amount of damage caused by stroke when not treated or when treatment is delayed. The sooner these drugs are given, the less damage to the brain and the body and less disability to the patient.
For bleeding blood vessels that cause stroke, treatment is surgery. Tiny clamps are used to stop blood flow and to keep the aneurysm from bursting. In a few cases, a bypass surgery on a blood vessel in the brain can be performed to direct blood to a region of the brain. It's the same type of surgery that is used in heart bypass surgery – just on the brain.
The window of time for the best results is within three hours of the first signs of stroke. After three hours, treatment is less effective because brain cells die by the minute.
Signs of a Stroke
Stroke symptoms often occur suddenly including numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding. A person might have trouble seeing in one or both eyes. They might have trouble walking, become dizzy or lose their balance. And some patients say they have a severe headache that hits like a clap of thunder – the worst headache they've had in their life.
If you suspect you or someone you love is experiencing stroke-like symptoms, call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest emergency room immediately.
Act FAST if you Suspect a Stroke
When someone has a stroke, minutes matter. That's why spotting stroke symptoms are critical! Symptoms include:
- Face. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms. Does one arm drift downward when being raised?
- Speech. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
- Time. If you observe any of these, call 911!
Keeping your Brain Healthy
"The brain is a muscle, just like all the other muscles in your body," says Dr. Krisht. "That's why it is important to practice it every day to make sure it continues to grow." Good health for your brain includes good blood flow and proper oxygen levels, which can be provided by regular exercise. Another way to ensure the health of the brain is by eating healthy. By eating healthy, you are less likely to have clogged arteries which causes strokes – keeping a good environment for the brain.
Keeping your brain active also helps it to continue to grow. This is especially important as you age. Activities such as learning something new, staying social, and keeping busy with tasks that cause cognitive thinking to occur help keep the brain alert and healthy.
The last very important thing to remember for maintaining a healthy brain is not participating in recreational or illegal drug usage. Every time drugs are taken, they have a direct effect of damaging areas of the brain and brain cells. Plus, the brain pressure is raised to malignant levels where the arteries going to the brain can become injured and cause a mini-stroke and bleeding in the brain.
Learn more about brain health and the Arkansas Neuroscience Institute at chistvincent.com/ANI.