ROBBINSVILLE– Each year, an estimated 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke, killing 137,000 people, according to the American Stroke Association. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds. Forty percent of stroke victims are men and 60 percent are women.
When a loved one suffers a stroke, it can be overwhelming for family members who will most likely become the caregivers. Taking time out for your self is essential. If you try to wait for all of your chores and responsibilities to your loved one to be finished, you may be waiting a long time.
To help you get started, the American Stroke Association offers these tips. They can make all the difference for everyone.
Top 10 things you need to do regularly:
- Get regular physical activity. Regular, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is a good energizer that reduces stress, helps keep blood pressure and cholesterol at heart-healthy levels and helps maintain healthy weight. Aim for 30 minutes a day which can be broken down to 10- or 15-minute sessions.
- Eat heart-healthy foods. They give you more energy, keep your brain fed (which helps combat depression) and help prevent other health problems. If you have to “eat on the run” choose nutritious snacks.
- Take time every day for an activity that you enjoy such as reading, listening to music, crafts, cooking – whatever makes you happy and relax.
- Keep humor in your life. Laughter IS good medicine. Find the humor in your situation when possible. Watch a silly TV program or pop in a comedy movie. Find things to laugh about with your loved ones. Laughter quickens the pulse rate, stimulates the blood circulation, activates muscles, increases oxygen intake and helps you relax.
- Get out once a week and go somewhere enjoyable. Visit the local coffee shop, attend church events, take a class, visit a friend or just wander around the mall or a park. If your loved one needs constant attention, ask for help. You can find someone to give an hour a week to let you get out.
- Treat depression and stress. Recognize signs and symptoms and do something about it as soon as it starts. If you think you may be depressed, get professional help, talk about it and admit your feelings.
- Take care of your business. Keep your checkbook balanced, work when you need to, spend time with friends and family and don’t stop planning for the future. If you live totally “in the moment” of your caregiver responsibilities, you’ll find it more difficult to re-integrate into life later on. Keep living.
- Keep all your medical and dental appointments. Do all you can to keep from getting sick. If you’re sick, you won’t be able to do what your loved one needs. Ask for help when you need it and take care of your health.
- Think positive. Take time every day to refresh your mind. Admit your limitations. Let go of the guilt. Admit if you are angry. Pat yourself on the back for the job you’re doing. If you are feeling guilty or angry, take a break.
- Stay connected with the outside world, even if it’s just by phone or online. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to friends about something other than your situation. Stay interested in what would be going on in your life if you weren’t care giving. It’s still there and you’re still a part of it.
Stroke is a medical emergency. The signs of a stroke include:
- 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.
If you or someone you know has one or more of these signs, don’t delay. Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services number so an ambulance can be sent for you. Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
For more tips, tools and support, or to find out more about stroke, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit www.strokeassociation.org.