Stroke Care: What Causes Strokes in the Elderly?
A stroke is a medical emergency that can cause significant long term health problems, and the causes can vary depending upon the type of stroke. While strokes can be unpredictable, some preventative steps can help reduce the risk.
What is a stroke?
There are two principal types of stroke. A blood clot causes Ischaemic strokes in the brain, and Haemorrhagic strokes are the result of a blood vessel located inside the brain bursting.
The two types of stroke occur when there is an issue with the blood supply to the brain, usually caused by a blood clot or haemorrhage. The immediate symptoms are commonly described using the acronym “FAST”.
F - Face. A stroke can cause the face to droop on one side. The eye or mouth may drop, and it could become impossible to smile.
A - Arms. Another symptom is a weakness in the arms, particularly on one side. They may not be able to lift or hold their arm correctly.
S - Speech. The person’s speech may become slurred or difficult to understand. In some cases, they may not be able to talk at all.
T - Time. One of the most critical factors in combating a stroke is that treatment is delivered as quickly as possible. Call 999 as soon as you see any of these symptoms.
Once at the hospital, your loved one will have a brain scan to establish the type and severity of their stroke. Treatment for strokes can involve medication to destroy blood clots.
Other medicines can treat high cholesterol or high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors in the development of a stroke. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to remove a blood clot or reduce swelling in the brain.
Strokes can have a significant long term impact. Sometimes, a person who has experienced a stroke will need live-in care while they relearn basic skills such as speech and movement. Some people will eventually regain their full independence, while others may need home care for the rest of their lives.
Those who have experienced a stroke once are at a higher risk of having a stroke in the future, so having proper stroke care is crucial, perhaps you may want to consider private care.
Transient ischaemic attack
Transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) are sometimes known as “mini-strokes” and can be a warning that a full stroke is on the way. Like full strokes, the blood supply to the brain is interrupted, and immediate treatment is necessary. The direct effects of TIAs can last from a few minutes to a whole day.
Blood clots are the cause of this type of stroke. An ischaemic stroke generally happens when fatty deposits (plaques) block the arteries and prevent blood and oxygen from reaching the brain. The risk of ischaemic stroke increases as your loved one ages because arteries often become narrower over time. Around 85% of strokes are ischaemic.
Other factors also increase the risk of ischaemic stroke, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Obesity and diabetes can also have an impact. Another factor can be the excessive consumption of alcohol.
Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat, causing blood clots in the heart. If these clots break up, they can travel to the brain and cause an ischaemic stroke.
Colin and Dulcie’s story
Dulcie is 100-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for six months.
We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.
A rarer form of stroke is a haemorrhagic stroke. This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel burst inside the brain. These burst blood vessels are usually caused by high blood pressure which can significantly weaken them until they fail.
High blood pressure, in turn, can be caused by a range of factors. Some of the most significant include excessive drinking and smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and stress. High blood pressure is not, however, the only cause of haemorrhagic strokes. This type of stroke can also happen due to abnormally shaped blood vessels and brain aneurysms.
Brain aneurysms occur when a weakened blood vessel expands like a balloon due to the pressure of the blood flowing through it. They are generally hard to detect unless they rupture, which then becomes a medical emergency.
However, most aneurysms do not burst, and many go undiagnosed, and any discovered may not necessarily need treatment.
Certain factors make a person more at risk of either type of stroke. Some risk factors are unavoidable, so it is essential to be aware as to whether someone is at an increased risk so you can pay more attention to potential symptoms.
The unavoidable factors that increase the risk of stroke include age, ethnicity, family history and medical history. Strokes are most common in people over the age of fifty-five, which is why stroke care can be considered an essential part of elderly care, just like dementia care.
People of African, Caribbean and South Asian descent are also more likely to experience a stroke. When a parent, grandparent or sibling has had a stroke, the risk of stroke increases. It also increases if you have experienced other conditions such as TIA, previous strokes, heart attacks, or an irregular heartbeat.
Other risks, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can be reduced with a healthy diet and regular exercise, in addition to cutting back on smoking and alcohol use.
It is also essential to take any necessary medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, or anyone who has previously had a stroke.
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