Commentary

May is Stroke Awareness Month in F.C. and Everywhere

By Suzanne Coyle Executive Director, Stroke Comeback Center

Stroke survivor holding her chest in pain. (Courtesy Photo)

Falls Church City Council recently issued a proclamation in support of Virginia’s Stroke Smart City campaign. This important state-wide initiative strives to improve awareness of the signs and symptoms of strokes, the recognition of strokes as medical emergencies, and the importance of immediately calling 911 when a symptom of stroke occurs.


Someone in the United States experiences a stroke every 40 seconds. It is a leading cause of death and long-term disability. Despite the high rate of stroke, many Americans know little about this medical emergency.


You can learn to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of stroke with the acronym FAST:


F – FACE – drooping on one side of the face or an uneven smile,


A – ARMS – sudden weakness or numbness in one arm,


S – SPEECH – slurred speech or difficulty using the correct word or thinking of words,


T – TIME – if you notice any of these symptoms, immediately call 911.


Additional warning signs and symptoms include severe headache, confusion, or a sudden change in balance or vision. If a person experiences even one symptom of a stroke, it is important to immediately call 911. Do not wait. Calling 911 allows first responders to begin life-saving treatment before arriving at the hospital.


Immediate medical treatment is essential to minimize the long-term effects of stroke and potentially prevent death. Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three to four hours of the onset of symptoms have the best access to life-saving treatments and better long-term outcomes.


What exactly is a Stroke?


A stroke is an interruption to the blood supply in the brain for any period of time. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel becomes blocked, stopping the flow of blood to the brain. This is the most common type of stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures, causing a blood vessel ruptures, causing bleeding in the brain.


A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA or “mini-stroke”) is a temporary blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. Since it does not cause permanent damage they are often ignored. A TIA is a serious medical emergency. Someone who experiences a TIA is ten times more likely to have a major stroke. It is a warning sign that should be carefully addressed by survivors and their physicians.


While stroke risk increases with age, strokes can — and do — happen at any age. Strokes occur in both men and women and all race/ethnic groups. While some risk factors are out of our control, 80 percent of strokes are preventable.


Stroke Prevention


Stroke prevention begins with a healthy lifestyle. You can minimize your risk of stroke by not smoking or using tobacco products, maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, and controlling diabetes. Nearly one in four strokes occur in individuals who have had a previous stroke. It is essential for stroke survivors to work closely with their physicians to minimize the risk of future strokes.


Stroke Recovery


Recovery from a stroke is possible and can continue for as long as the survivor has access to meaningful, therapeutic services. Rehabilitation with physical, occupational, and speech therapy may begin in the hospital and continue once a survivor returns home with outpatient therapy at a local hospital or clinic. However, the potential for continued recovery often extends far beyond what is covered by traditional health insurance.


For survivors in the greater Washington, DC area, the nonprofit organization Stroke Comeback Center provides affordable, ongoing services for stroke survivors and their families throughout their recoveries. Programs are offered at centers in Vienna, Virginia and Rockville, Maryland as well as the Virtual Stroke Comeback Center. Small group classes address communication, cognitive, and physical changes that can occur as the result of stroke or other brain trauma. Survivors are able to join these programs at any point in their recovery and, most importantly, regardless of their ability to pay for these services.

As many as one-third of stroke survivors have aphasia — a disorder that can impact all aspects of language but does not impact intelligence. Stroke Comeback Center’s core programs address language skills and strategies to improve communication and the survivor’s ability to actively participate in life.


Stroke Comeback Center’s program participants, families, and professionals know that recovery can continue indefinitely with support and determination. They believe that all survivors should have access to the ongoing therapeutic programs that allow them to live active, healthy, and productive lives. To not only survive — but to thrive.


Stroke Comeback Center is proudly hosting Thriving with Aphasia, a celebration of the many ways survivors thrive. This celebration will be held at the State Theatre in Falls Church City on Thursday, June 30, 2022. You can learn more about Stroke Comeback Center’s programs and Thriving with Aphasia on their website, strokecomebackcenter.org.


Suzanne Coyle, Executive Director, Stroke Comeback Center. [email protected] 703-255-5221. strokecomebackcenter.org