Stroke is the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, according to recent statistics from the American Stroke Association. Each year, more than 795,000 people suffer a stroke or a recurrent stroke—three-quarters of the victims are 65 and older. The good news: there are 4.8 million stroke survivors, and the damages caused by stroke can be avoided if warning signs are heeded and medical attention immediately applied.
“There is a three-hour window of time to stop the devastation of stroke,” said Peter V. Cornelis, a six-time stroke survivor and CEO of the Hicksville-based nonprofit, H.O.P.E. 4 Stroke. “Stroke is a cascading event. By calling 911, they can begin triage, a multisystem treatment effort to stop and even reverse the effects of stroke.”
He pointed out that the brain is capable of manufacturing new brain cells through neuroplasticity, a process that reconnects the neuron-endings of brain cells through physical, speech and occupational therapies, which are crucial during the recuperation period.
“It takes time, but the payoff is remarkable—everything comes back to you and your frame of mind is incredible,” said Cornelis.
A stroke is a form of cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries of the brain. It occurs when a blood vessel to the brain bursts or is suddenly interrupted, preventing precious oxygen and other nutrients from getting to the brain, causing brain cells to die. There are two forms of stroke: ischemic - blockage of a blood vessel supplying the brain, and hemorrhagic - bleeding into or around the brain. Ischemic stroke occurs in 80 percent of the country’s population.
During a stroke, the brain cells die and neuron endings disconnect, causing parts of the body to not function properly. There are several telltale signs of stroke which should be acted upon immediately:
• Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
• Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech
• Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
• Problems with walking; dizziness and/or loss of balance
• Severe headaches with no known cause
Generally there are three treatment stages for stroke: prevention, therapy immediately after the stroke, and post-stroke rehabilitation.
Helpful resources in stroke awarenss: