How can Stroke patients recover faster?

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Strokes can be frightening. When a person who was physically active, socially involved unexpectedly loses all the capabilities such as walking, using their arm or at times even cannot talk clearly, his/her depression will be unexplainable. Stroke recovery is often an extremely hard time for both the stroke victim and their family. A stroke impairs blood supply to the brain, which can cause lasting problems in speech and understanding. There are many different problems that stroke victims can suffer from. The type of health issues that a stroke victim develops depends on the area of the brain that is affected by the stroke. Someone who suffers from a stroke may experience paralysis to one side of the body, problems sensing pain and other sensations, difficulty talking or understanding what others are saying, problems with thinking or reasoning skills and emotional volatility. Regardless of what type of disabilities result from a stroke, there are several things that the patient and their family can do to speed recovery.


What are the causes for stroke?

 Different blood vessels supply blood and nutrients to the nerve cells in the brain. The blood and nutrients allow the brain cells to function properly. A stroke is caused by a blood clot that has stayed in a blood vessel in the brain, stopping the blood flow to that region. This is called ‘hemorrhage’. As the brain is the controlling system of the body, and works with the help of oxygen, in a stroke the brain gets deprived of oxygen which results in the death of the brain cells. If it happens in the right hemisphere of the brain, it will paralyze the left side of the body. If it happens in the left hemisphere of the brain, not only will it paralyze the right side but it will also affect speech. Much of the devastation of stroke and head trauma is due to damage caused the overproduction of a substance in the brain called ‘glutamate’. Glutamate is a short-lived neurotransmitter that is normally all but absent in brain fluids. After a stroke or injury, however, the glutamate levels in brain fluid become a flood that over-excites the cells in its path and kills them.


What are the symptoms of stroke?

 A serious form of stroke is often lead by a mini stroke. Therefore, one must be on the look out for the symptoms of a Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA) or a mini stroke. Some of the symptoms of TIA are:

  • Weakness or numbness of the face, an arm and/or a leg, usually on the same side of the body
  • The weakness may be mild, or the patient may be completely unable to feel or move the affected limb
  • The patient's face may appear asymmetrical and their speech may start to sound garbled and slurred, they may appear confused or unable to understand speech. Swallowing may be hard.  
  • Patients may develop visual difficulties or dizziness.   
  • Nausea and vomiting and co-ordination or walking difficulties will also occur.
  • There may be a sudden, very severe headache.
  • Blurred vision, Confusion or senses of disorientation are also possible.
  • Loss of control of facial expressions and unconsciousness will take place.
  • There may be any combination of these complaints, and beginning is usually unexpected and dramatic. So, one must not delay medical treatment.


How to speed up the recovery of a stroke victim?

Even if the complete cure of a stroke patient cannot be achieved very easily, it is possible to speed up their recovery. Some of the ways are as follows:

  • Emotional support: It can be very frustrating and depressing, when a person who does everything on his own is abruptly not able to walk, or even eat on his own. Therefore, for a stroke victim to come out of this frustration, the best way is to lend some emotional support. This can be done by spending quality time with them, helping them when they are bored, watching television, playing games, taking them for a movie or outing. Understanding their difficulties and helping them to defeat their problems can speed up their recovery.
  • Encourage Rehabilitation: A stroke stops the usual functioning of the brain and every so often it affects the brain so much that the person cannot even speak, and perform his day to day activities. This requires an ideal rehabilitation program in which the person is provided with small tasks to do. This improves the functioning of their brain. These rehabilitation programs are offered by hospitals before the patient is discharged. Family members should provide complete support and encouragement which will help in the quick recovery of the stroke victim.
  • Supportive Devices: Supportive devices are very helpful for a stroke patient. Daily duties like eating, getting dressed, walking, etc. can be easily done with the help of these simple devices. Wheelchair, walker, easy-to-grip silverware, cups with t-shaped handles, shower benches, raised toilet seats, fixed grab bars, are some of the supportive devices that are available for stroke patients.
  • Improve Communication: A stroke leads to several communication difficulties. The brain may not catch up with spoken words, and may take a long time to understand or respond. Therefore, family members should be slow and clear in what ever they are trying to say to the patients. Repeating the question if the patients are unable to understand is important. Proper eye contact is vital. Encouraging them to speak, and being patient even with their small mistakes can help them improve a lot.
  • Helping with their psychological issues: Stroke victims may have psychological changes. They may occasionally become very depressed, aggressive or frustrated. It is vital to understand the change in their behavior. Requesting the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist and, if possible, taking the victim for counseling will be very helpful.
  • Physical activity such as walking in Treadmill is proved to be beneficial for stroke victims. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends treadmill exercises as part of rehabilitation. Based on the research, it is found that structured treadmill exercise augments walking efficiency. Hence, less energy is used for walking, making the walking job less stressful. Also, there is an improvement in aerobic capacity when a stroke patient walks on a treadmill.
  • Recent studies indicate that video games, such as Nintendo Wii assist with the speed recovery of stroke patients. Contrast to the several of video games, Nintendo Wii, due to its motion-sensitive controllers, involves some of the motor activities involved in regular sports, such as tennis, golf, or boxing-without the severe impact on the body and also it is fun to play. Physicians in the U.S. are now recommending stroke victims to use the Wii to help regain movement in their arms and legs. Also, it German doctors are using it to help speed up recovery in injured soldiers.
  • Taking part in 20-60 minutes of aerobic exercise three to seven days a week, strength training with light weights two to three times a week, and two to three balance exercises each week is also shown to be very helpful in stroke victims. It is essential for a stroke victim, to consult the doctor before starting any of the physical activities.


What is the current research in medications for stroke victims?

Since, glutamate causes much of the devastation of stroke and head trauma, instead of attempting to get drugs into the brain, Prof. Vivian I. Teichberg of the Institute's Neurobiology Department, suggests transporting glutamate from the brain to the blood using the tiny "pumps," or transporters, on the capillaries that work on differences in glutamate concentration between the two sides of the brain. Decreasing glutamate levels in blood would create a stronger momentum to pump the substance out of the brain. He thought that a naturally-occurring enzyme called ‘glutamate-oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT)’ could "hunt" blood glutamate, significantly lowering its levels. According to further research, it was confirmed that GOT might improve a patient's chances of recovering, as well as speeding up the process. In addition to stroke and head trauma, a number of diseases are characterized by an accumulation of glutamate in the brain, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, certain brain tumors and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There is hope that, in the future, treatments to scavenge glutamate could relieve the symptoms and improve the outcomes for a number of neurological problems.  

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