Illinois Senator Mark Kirk recently returned to the senate steps to mark a major milestone in his recovery from a large stroke he suffered last January.
Kirk had an ischemic stroke affecting arterial blood flow to the brain. Over the past 12 months he underwent many forms of rehabilitation to regain his ability to walk and talk. Edward neurologist, Dr. Henry Echiverri knows how tough the road back can be.
“A similar stroke like Senator Kirk had will require a substantial amount of formal rehabilitation,” said Echiverri. “Special machines, special treadmills, that would support him while they are trying to move the leg and to train muscles in the leg. That progresses from the machine related rehab to individual exercised to maintain what he gets back.”
Though strokes can’t be prevented entirely, there are things that can be done to reduce your risk.
“Things such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol. All of those we can control,” said Echiverri. “We can treat those.”
Heredity can also play a factor, as well as traumas putting you at a higher risk. And being young doesn’t make you immune.
“In the young population a big problem is drug use,” said Echiverri.
“Cocaine and all sorts of drugs can predispose them to strokes.”
In addition to knowing risk factors, patients need to be aware of warning signs. One of the most common are Transient Ischemic Attacks, or mini-strokes.
“[Transient Ischemic Attacks] can last from a few minutes to a few hours but they reverse themselves,” Echiverri said. “Examples of this would be slurring the speech, drooping of the face, weakness of the arms or legs, sensory loss, especially if it’s one side.”
If you do experience any of the risk factors visit your doctor right away because early detection can drastically increase a patient’s chances at survival.
“I think that’s what saved Senator Kirk,” Dr. Echiverri said. “He was treated early on, had surgery early on and it saved his life. That’s the message I’d like to impart, come soon and come early.”
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