Stroke: Causes, Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatments

Stroke is a brain attack that can happen to anyone at anytime. Its occurs when blood flowing to an area is cut of. When it happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begins to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as memory are lost. According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled.

Now, do you also know that:

High blood pressure contributes to more than 12.7 million strokes world-wide,

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death worldwide?

Is the leading cause of adult disability?

Up to 80% of stroke can be prevented?



The best way to understand what stroke is to look at the body generally. Every part of the body require supply of oxygen. Stroke is a result of destruction of blood supply into any part of the brain.


Prevention is key, because rehabilitation does not connote full treatment. What are those strategies? There are a number of them:

  • Reduce blood pressure because high blood pressure is one of the risk factors for stroke. Keep blood pressure below 120/80mmHg. High blood pressure should be managed by specialist in the hospital. There are drugs that can be taken on a regular basis and that is why someone can live with high blood pressure for many years. We also emphasize on being physically active. When all these are done blood pressure will be totally under control,
  • Lower blood cholesterol level,
  • Eat food that is low in salt, rich in fruits, vegetables and ensure the victim reduce amount of fat in his/her food. Moreover,  diabetes is a risk factor. Taking much sugar does not cause stroke but it is a link between diabetes and stroke,
  • One must engage in regular exercise. High level of physical activity has been known to reduce the risk of stroke,
  • Avoid smoking,
  • One should reduce stress to the nearest minimum and
  • Alcohol consumption should be stopped. Every alcoholic consumption is a risk factor.

So, in a nutshell, these are some of the strategies that anybody can abduct in order to prevent stroke or recurrent stroke.

Symptoms of Strokes


We must act fast in recognising someone who is down with stroke. And acting fast is dependent on “FAST”.


Look the face of the person, is one side of the face drooping?

A (ARM):

Look at the arms, is one side weak?


Tell the person to talk. Are the words jumbled?


Act quickly. Get the victim to the clinic as soon as possible in order to have a full recovery.


There are staggering figures of those who has had stroke in the past. Among those who has had it about 20% percent of them died in a month, after a month another 10% died, 30% will make a full recovery, 40% survived it and these are the ones who are called stroke survivors. And they are the ones we look after. In order to assure that they return to what we call independent life so that they would be able to perform what they were able to perform before and take their place in the society. When we talk of management of the stroke survivors it is actually a multidisciplinary approach and the physiotherapist is a member of the so many numbers of the health professionals that are in charge of making sure that this group of people are rehabilitated so that they can take their place again in the society.

So, from a physiotherapist point of view we are more concerned about helping them to regain functions, to be able to perform all the activities or daily living to strengthen their muscles. We as physiotherapist takes active part in performing exercises and making sure that they relearn functional task which they have lost as result of stroke.

When you look at typical survivor of stroke, the picture is not the same to all of them. What we are seeing as ordinary people is that we are looking at paralysis of one side of the body but the degree varies from person to person. What we do is to access the patient and see the degree of disabilities that he has and plan an effective treatment that will address individual patient. We don’t talk of generalised treatments, we talk of individualized treatment. It depends on what and what the patient is able to do and what the patient is unable to do. And we plan our treatment to address those aspects or areas of body function which the patient is lacking and is not able to perform them. Mostly we try to ensure that they regain their strength to be able to wake up from bed, would be able to perform all activities that normally a person should be able to do on a daily basis.

Also, the primary goal of rehabilitation is to ensure that the survivors are not neglected. We mostly rehabilitate them in such away that they can take their place again in the society. Stroke is a very complex issue but the impact can be reduced in a number of ways and one of them is physiotherapist intervention.



Rehabilitation starts from bed. Immediately all the medical emergencies have been taken care of (i.e. resurrection of the vital cells and so on and so forth). Then we emphasize what we call mobility. While on bed the exercises we perform for them is to make sure that the paralyzed part of the body are exercised in such a way that we put them through what we call full range of motion by doing passive exercises in order to prevent those joint from becoming stiff and then affecting his ability to get up, stand and walk. Once he is able to achieve those ones, we progress to active exercises in which the patient is given instructions on what to do and the patient is able to do them. If he continue to make progress that way, then he will not remain on bed again.


Stroke victim rehabilitation (active exercise

Stroke Victim rehabilitation (active exercise)

The victim must be assessed to know the kind of exercise that is better for him at that particular stage. So, it depends on stage of recovery that the patient has got to. Active exercises involves use of equipments which are modalities. The equipment can be available at home, to strengthen the muscles more by ensuring that the victim has some resistance by pushing and pulling against so that the limb will be more useful. This are modalities that can be recommended at home.

People with speech effect should consult speech and language therapist to address the speech aspects of stroke. Someone with a partial stroke should be very careful. Somebody who has had a stroke before is a good candidate for another stroke, so such people must take note of all the key prevention strategies.

Thanks for reading.

Credit: Dr Jide Olawale, associate professor of physiotherapy at the college of medicine, University of Lagos (UNILAG) and consultant physiotherapist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idiaraba via “Good Health” @ Raypower 100.5 FM.


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