By Lauren Fournier, PT, DPT
There are several different types/causes of strokes. One type is called an ischemic stroke, which occurs as the result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for 87% of all stroke cases.
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. Two types of weakened blood vessels usually cause hemorrhagic stroke: aneurysms (bulges in the vessel walls) and arteriovenous malformations (irregular connections between the arteries and veins), but the most common cause of hemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).
TIA (transient ischemic attack) is caused by a temporary clot. Often called a “mini stroke,” these warning strokes should be taken very seriously. Even though a TIA may seem to resolve within minutes with no noticeable or lasting effects, anyone who has symptoms should be rushed to the emergency room.
Stroke Warning Signs:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Stroke is largely preventable. You can reduce your stroke risk by living a healthy lifestyle — controlling high blood pressure; not smoking; eating a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats; being physically active; maintaining a healthy body weight; managing diabetes; and drinking alcohol moderately or not at all.
Some strokes affect the brainstem, and if this occurs, the vestibular system is injured. Symptoms of a brainstem stroke can be dizziness or vertigo causing imbalance. A majority of stroke survivors have balance problems because one side is stronger than the other. Another main factor affecting balance is loss of sensation in your affected side, particularly your legs. If you cannot feel where your leg and foot are, especially when your foot is safely on the ground, it is very difficult to know how to move. You will automatically use your vision to compensate for the lack of feeling, which takes a lot of concentration and is extremely tiring. It also means that you may be less aware of your surroundings. All of these factors increase your risk of having slips, trips and falls. This is where physical therapy can help strengthen your legs and work on teaching you how to overcome your deficits in a safe and personalized way so you can get your life back on track and return to what you loved to do pre-stroke.