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What Is Stroke: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment for the Elderly

Elderly Woman Have Heart Disease Sitting Wheelchair

In Singapore, stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the fourth most common cause of death. Data shows 6.0% of Singaporeans died due to cerebrovascular disease, including stroke, in 2020.

However, stroke could be prevented by seeking proper health care and prompt treatment. Knowing how to recognise the warning signs of stroke and taking immediate action can save a life and minimise complications. Additionally, committing to healthy lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of stroke.

Let’s learn more about stroke and find out all we can about stroke symptoms Singapore. What are the early warning signs of stroke, and what do you do when a stroke occurs? The earlier you recognise stroke symptoms, the better.

So here’s everything you should know about stroke, early warning signs, how to recognise stroke symptoms, how to prevent stroke, and more. Let’s begin with you and your elderly loved ones’ journey toward enveloping healthier lifestyle habits and getting life-saving treatment to ensure heart health.

Stroke – The Definition

A stroke happens when your brain tissue is deprived of oxygen and essential nutrients. This is caused by an interruption or reduced blood flow in the brain.

Once it happens, the brain cells die in minutes, leading to impaired brain functions or, worse, brain damage.

Stroke comes in different kinds, which vary in severity and effects. However, haemorrhagic and ischaemic strokes are the leading types accounting for 98% of stroke cases in Singapore.

A haemorrhagic stroke happens due to a ruptured blood vessel, resulting in brain bleeding. On the other hand, ischaemic stroke is caused by a blood vessel blockage. A brain affected by a blocked blood vessel is something serious since it can limit the brain’s blood supply until the brain cells die.

Although some stroke risk factors, such as age and family history, are non-modifiable, many lifestyle factors can be altered to reduce the risk of stroke. Nevertheless, the identification of stroke early warning signs is vital, and early treatment is necessary to avoid a medical emergency, brain damage, neurological disorders, and further complications.

Learning More About the Types of Stroke

We have briefly tapped on haemorrhagic and ischaemic stroke, but let’s learn more about these two and the other types of stroke you must be aware of:

Ischaemic Stroke

This type of stroke accounts for almost 80% of patients suffering from a stroke in Singapore. It happens when a blood artery obstruction restricts blood supply to the brain, typically due to embolisation or thrombosis.

A thrombosis happens when the blood vessels in the brain get constricted due to fatty deposits, leading to blockage. On the other hand, an embolism occurs when a blood clot travels through the bloodstream and lodges in the blood vessels in the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

Twenty per cent of stroke patients in Singapore suffered from hemorrhagic stroke. This type of stroke occurs when a blood artery in the brain leaks or bursts, causing bleeding in the brain.

The most common causes of a ruptured blood vessel include excessive use of blood thinners, trauma, and poorly controlled high blood pressure. It can also be due to haemorrhage resulting from ischemic stroke, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and aneurysm or weak spots in the walls of your blood vessel.

Transient Ischemic Attack

Stroke patients suffering from a transient ischemic attack (TIA) experience full-blown stroke symptoms that are transient, meaning temporary. The TIA stroke symptoms may last only about five minutes or less.

The cause of this stroke type is similar to ischemic. It happens when a blood vessel is constricted, resulting in a decrease in blood flow.

While it has no known lasting effects, it’s among the more serious warning signs of stroke. It can be among the early warning signs that you have a narrowed artery or partially blocked blood vessels.

You can look at TIA as one of the signs of a stroke, which you must not ignore. You never know, but the stroke symptoms may have increased your stroke risk or the likelihood of a stroke increases. It can also be signs of getting a minor stroke, major stroke, or a heart attack soon if you do not seek medical treatment this early.

To be safe, get immediate medical attention when you experience even temporary stroke symptoms. You can never be too certain since the early warning signs of stroke and other stroke symptoms are typically the same regardless of the stroke you’re experiencing.

The List of Stroke Causes

Many stroke risk factors can increase your chances of suffering from a stroke. While you can do something to reverse the effects of some of these risk factors, many stroke symptoms would be out of your control.

Here are the most common risk factors of stroke, which can lead to stroke warning signs and other symptoms:

Family history

You have a higher risk of stroke when you have a close relative who has had it. Your genes may be prone to risk factors, including the likelihood of a clogged blood vessel, low blood supply, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, or a weakened blood vessel.

Before experiencing any signs of a stroke, it’s best to learn about stroke treatments and what to do when it happens to you. Since it’s in your genes, you never know when the warning signs of a stroke will show up. It’s safer to look at yourself as a ticking time bomb, so you would always be conscious of your actions to prevent stroke.

Age

People experience more signs of a stroke as they age. This is because as you get older, your blood vessels become weaker and your arteries harder and more narrow. You also tend to experience common stroke signs, such as arm weakness and difficulty speaking.

Excessive alcohol intake

You will likely have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels when you abuse alcohol most of your life. Drinking too much alcohol can also cause weight gain and irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation, increasing your stroke risk.

Smoking

Tobacco use and even frequent exposure to second-hand smoke can increase your risk of having a blood clot. This is due to the thickening of the blood as a result of the fat buildup in your neck artery. Moreso, too much nicotine in your system can increase your blood pressure, which can result in experiencing stroke warning signs.

Being overweight

Stroke is more likely to happen to overweight individuals. This is why you’ll often hear advice about maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet as you grow older. A leading cause of stroke is being overweight. This is because it snowballs into other adult disabilities and health concerns, including mini-stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Existing health issues

This factor is another of the leading cause of stroke. You will have higher chances of experiencing signs of a stroke earlier in life when you have pre-existing medical conditions, including the following:

  • High cholesterol

It makes you at risk of ischaemic stroke due to the buildup of fats in your artery walls.

  • Hypertension

High blood pressure makes it more difficult for the heart to do its job. Hypertension symptoms strain the blood vessels, leading to a blood clot and other signs of stroke.

  • Diabetes

The high levels of sugar in the blood can cause mini-stroke and other signs of a stroke, including the buildup of fat in the blood vessels and blood clot.

  • Transient Ischemic Attack

If you had a mini-stroke or TIA before, it is more likely that you will experience a recurrence of the stroke or, worse, suffer from a heart attack.

  • Heart disease

The heart ailments causing stroke depend on where the problems lie. You will likely suffer from blood clots when you have enlarged heart chambers, atrial fibrillation, and heart valve defects. Stroke may also occur due to blocked arteries caused by plaque buildup.

The Benefits Included in a Home Caregiving Grant

Here’s a look at the revised payouts for the beneficiaries of the Home Caregiving Grant depending on the household’s monthly per capita income or monthly income per person:

  • $400 payout for $0 to $1200 capita household monthly income or monthly income per person (or a no-income household with a residence with an annual value of $13,000 or less)
  • $250 payout for $1201 to $2800 household monthly income per capita or monthly income per person

A Singapore citizen with an approved home caregiving grant is eligible to use their monthly payouts for any of the following caregiving expenses:

Home care

Hiring caregivers to perform home caregiving duties, specifically in helping the patient in their activities of daily living

Specialised Care Services

Request for home caregiving assistance, depending on the patient’s medical condition (e.g. cancer care and dementia care)

Home nursing procedures

Obtaining the services of home nurses to render procedures, such as urine bag drainage, NGT feeding, wound care and dressing, private nursing, and IV drip

Home therapy sessions

Patients needing therapy sessions and personalised exercise treatment to rehabilitate and recover from an injury or illness

Hiring a foreign domestic worker FDW

Employing a stay-in help or caregiver to assist and monitor the patient 24/7

Other eldercare costs

Employing people to render medicine delivery, home medical consultations, and home visits of a general practitioner and other medical professionals

Stroke – The Risk Factors

Various risk factors can increase the likelihood of having a stroke. These risk factors can be either medical conditions or lifestyle habits.

The greater the number of risk factors an individual has, the higher their risk of having a stroke. While some of these risk factors are beyond our control, others can be actively managed or modified to reduce the chances of having a stroke.

Preventable stroke risk factors

  • Irregular heart rhythm or rate (atrial fibrillation)
  • Certain heart and blood conditions
  • Unhealthy lifestyle and vices
  • Conditions needing medical treatment (diabetes, high cholesterols, high blood pressure)

Non-preventable stroke risk factors

  • Genetic conditions
  • Family history
  • Age

BE FAST – Making It Easier to Recognise the Signs of Stroke

Different symptoms may manifest depending on the type of stroke and the specific part of the brain that is affected. To aid in recognising the common symptoms of stroke, the acronym “BE FAST” can be utilised. This acronym also serves as a reminder that time is of the essence when a stroke occurs.

the sign of stroke

The letters in “BE FAST” stand for the following symptoms:

  • Balance

A person may feel dizzy, stumble, or experience a loss of coordination.

  • Eyes

Vision may be blurred or blackened, there may be trouble seeing in one or both eyes or double vision may occur.

  • Face

Facial sudden numbness, typically on one side, can result in noticeable facial drooping. It’s alarming to experience anything untoward on your face arm or leg.

  • Arm

Arm weakness or sudden numbness in one arm may be indicated if the person is unable to raise this one arm or if you see the arm drift downward. Again, you have to be alerted if you see something unusual happening in the face arm or leg.

  • Speech

Confusion, difficulty speaking and understanding speech, and slurred speech or speech difficulty may be observed. If you don’t do anything promptly, this may lead to the worsening of the condition, which may require you to undergo speech therapy. The symptoms may already be hinting something untoward is happening to a part of the brain.

  • Time

Time is critical in stroke treatment, as brain cells begin to die with every passing minute. If any of the above symptoms are noticed, it is important to call 995 immediately.

What to Do When Someone is Having a Stroke

Acting promptly and seeking immediate medical attention can help minimise the extent of the damage and speed up the stroke recovery process.

To ensure the fastest and most effective response, it is crucial to call 995 immediately if you notice any signs of a stroke. This is better than attempting to transport the affected individual to the hospital on your own.

When you call 995, trained paramedics will be dispatched to the location. This will enable them to identify the symptoms of stroke and provide life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

Additionally, the emergency department will be notified so that appropriate medical attention can be provided to the patient upon arrival.

It is important to take note of when the symptoms started, as some of the most effective treatments for stroke must be administered within six hours of the onset of symptoms. This information can help determine the most appropriate and effective treatment.

If the person falls unconscious during a stroke, check their pulse and breathing. If there is no pulse, perform CPR immediately.

To prevent the risk of choking, do not give the person food or drink. Additionally, avoid administering any medication, as the appropriate treatment for stroke depends on the type of stroke, and administering the wrong medication could worsen the condition.

Ways to Prevent a Stroke

If you have hypertension, follow the seven steps to keep your blood pressure under control and reduce your stroke risk.

However, since hypertension often does not show any symptoms, it is recommended that individuals with normal blood pressure levels take a blood pressure reading at least once every three years.

Smoking is a well-known risk factor for stroke, so it is advisable to quit smoking or not start smoking in the first place.

For those with pre-existing heart conditions, it is important to consult a doctor and follow their advice to manage the condition and reduce the risk of stroke.

Regular exercise can help prevent health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, all risk factors for stroke. Small changes like taking the stairs instead of the escalator or doing a short 30-minute workout at home five days a week can be a great start.

Moderating alcohol consumption is also important to prevent health complications that may raise the risk of stroke. Women should limit themselves to one drink a day, while men should have no more than two drinks a day.

A healthy and balanced diet is also vital in reducing the risk of stroke. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing salt, trans and saturated fats intake can help reduce the risk of stroke.

Managing diabetes and high cholesterol levels with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and medication prescribed by a doctor can also help reduce the risk of stroke.

Conclusion

Learning about stroke is important before something like a severe headache or speech difficulty becomes a medical emergency. You can never be too sure when a person’s severe headache or speech difficulty is a simple case or a sign of dying brain cells.

Each family member must know how to recognise the signs and what to do in case of a stroke. This also goes to caregivers assigned to home care for elderly Singapore.

If you have an existing health condition that increases the risk of stroke, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice and keep it under control. For those who have previously had a stroke, it is crucial to take any prescribed medication to prevent another one.

Joshua is the founder of RC Caregivers. Having been the primary caregiver of his father, he has been undertaking ways to provide affordable and quality care, not just to his father, but to all elderly in Singapore. He has founded multiple care companies, such as Red Crowns Senior Living, and has been featured in Straits Times, Zaobao and Money 93FM. He has also been lauded by DBS, with the company being the recipient of the DBS foundation grant.
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