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Stroke: A Plain English Guide

By , 11:16 pm on

Stroke is:
“Brain attack” is the most descriptive and realistic term for stroke.

A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel or artery, or when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. Stroke kills brain cells in the area surrounding the location of the clot or breakage.

Up to 80% of strokes are preventable through risk factor management (such as smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease).

People who have had a stroke are at greatly increased risk of another one, so it is important for caregivers to know signs of stroke.

Common Signs Of A Stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of 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 see someone having these symptoms or experience any of these symptoms yourself, call 9-1-1 immediately. Appropriate treatment can be more effective if given quickly.  Every minute matters.
Effects on Functioning:
Stroke is the 4th most prevalent cause of death in the US and a leading cause of adult disability.


  1. Depression and anxiety: effects cognitive abilities; can be treated with individual counseling, group therapy or antidepressant medications
  2. Problems with memory, thinking, attention or learning
  3. Communication problems: including using language, difficulty understanding speech or writing, knowing the right words but being unable to say them intelligibly
  4. Emotional Lability (Pseudobulbar Affect): sudden laughing or crying for no apparent reason and difficulty controlling emotional responses; occurs randomly and may end as quickly as it started
  5. Difficulties with daily tasks


  1. Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body or in a single limb.
  2. Pain, related to muscle stiffness or spasms, numbness or joint strain
  3. Problems with balance and/or coordination
  4. Being unaware of or ignoring sensations on one side of body, impacts ability to function (aka Neglect)
  5. Trouble swallowing
  6. Problems with bowel or bladder control
  7. Sleep difficulty, resulting in fatigue, insomnia, etc.

Care Needs:
About 50% of stroke survivors require care. Of all strokes, 40% cause moderate to severe impairments requiring special care and another 10% cause damage requiring long-term, skilled nursing care.

For more about stroke recovery:

Better Stroke Recovery with Cognitive Support

Tips for Successful Stroke Recovery

What Stroke Survivors Want You To Know

Vascular Dementia and Managing Blood Pressure

We specialize in Stroke Survivor Care and Recovery.  Call a Care Manager to learn more: 402-261-5158.

Sources: National Stroke Association; American Heart Association; Mayo Clinic; Dr. Wityk, Neurologist, Johns Hopkins; Drs. Stein, Silver, and Frates: Life After Stroke: The Guide to Recovering Your Health and Preventing Another Stroke

Lee Nyberg, a partner at Home Care Assistance of Nebraska, focuses on education on aging issues, co-leads a Parkinson’s support group, and is a Legislative Advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association.

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