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The Hand-Made Coffin

November 30
14:06 2019

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph

A stroke manifests itself in many ways. Many times we are only witnesses to the aftermath and consequences of a stroke, where a person may be talking with slurred speech and half of their face droops down. Perhaps it affected one side of the jaw and you notice that half of their lip is “twisted” or one eye does not blink. Others will explain that they are unable to move, unable to lift one side of their body – an arm or a leg or both. Depending on the location and the severity of a stroke, a person can display several of these unwanted manifestations.

A cerebrovascular accident is considered the second cause of death and ranked the third cause of disability globally. Strokes are very common here in Belize and if you focus on society, you would notice people with a droopy face, a paralyzed arm or a walk that drags. These are all signs of post-stroke. A stroke is a blockage in the flow of oxygen to the brain whether by a clot or the rupture of a vessel, but the end result is that not enough oxygen is getting to the brain tissues and if it lasts long enough, some of these tissues die. There are different types of strokes:

Ischemic stroke: Is when the blood flow that takes oxygen-rich blood through the artery of the brain becomes blocked. It accounts for 87% of strokes.
Hemorrhagic stroke: Is when the artery begins to leak or ruptures. The accumulation of blood presses on the brain cells and damages them. Remember the brain is held inside bone – skull. There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke. Intracerebral bleeding is the most common type. It is when the artery ruptures and blood fills the surrounding tissues. The second type of hemorrhagic stroke is called subarachnoid bleeding. It refers to the bleeding between the brain and the tissue that covers it. This is the less common hemorrhagic stroke.
Transient ischemic attack: Is often referred to as a “mini stroke.” It is different from the other two categories of strokes previously mentioned, mainly by its short time frame. This type of stroke usually has a duration and symptoms resolve within 24 hours.

If someone was talking to you or standing right in front of you having a stroke, would you be able to recognize the symptoms? Do you know what the main symptoms are? It is important to recognize symptoms along their course, or in cases where persons wake up with symptoms, to recognize the results after a stroke has occurred as soon as possible. I already mentioned some of the symptoms above, but for you to remember what I want you to learn today, I give you the acronym/mnemonic FAST. F means face drooping, A means arm weakness (this can also refer to leg weakness), S means speech difficulty – many times the person cannot form words or sounds drunk, and lastly – T mean time. Time is very important. If you recognize the combination of these then it is time to go to the hospital or call for emergency help. Getting a person to the hospital in the early stages of a stroke can make a great impact on recovery time as well as severity of disability.

Many times we look at diseases and medical conditions from an outsider’s perspective, where we acknowledge that it can happen but we never dream or consider that it would happen to us. Sometimes we make jokes and say we are going to develop “presha” or “sweet-blood” based on our eating habits, but it’s just words – we don’t really take the comments we make seriously. We plan for a lot of things in our future. We take time out to think about the type of wife or husband we want. We sometimes plan how many kids we want. We make sure we have our contributions right and try to live long enough to collect our pension. And we plan and plan our lives, but we don’t consider the blue print we create in our youth for our adulthood and our Geriatric phase.

Both phases are inevitable and both phases are too late to change once you get there. You can work with your doctor once you have high cholesterol, hypertension and even Diabetes, but once it happens it’s because our body has been worn down. How? Through years of poor eating habits – sedentarism, alcoholism aka “social drinking” as most of you like to term it. I just call it highly functional alcoholics – but no need to sugar coat it. Any type of drinking increases your risk of many chronic illnesses as we age. There is also obesity and smoking. Imagine if ONE of these is considered bad…in all honesty, most people have a combination of at least 3 bad habits. These factors accumulate over time and affect our blood. Our arteries harden as we age – eating fatty foods accelerates this process as fats flow in our blood and sticks on the walls, making our blood pressure slightly elevated and in some cases too high for our own good.

As these arteries narrow it makes it hard for blood to flow at times. In an effort to compensate, the heart pumps harder and increases pressure to allow blood to flow. Do you know what happens to a half-clogged PVC pipe when we increase pressure? It can blow the pipe off its connection or it can dislodge what was there and it travels through until it get stuck elsewhere or is cleared out. The same concept can be mirrored when talking about high cholesterol and hypertension. Remember I mentioned 87% of strokes are ischemic, meaning due to blockage. Food for thought when it comes to your lifestyle and habits. “Yo di set yo self up slowly!”

Having a stroke is out of our control as we get older, mainly because there are many other factors apart from our past that haunt us. We are on different types of medications, we become fragile and so we are unable to exercise and work out as we need to. Certain types of food “noh gree wid wih”, and the list can go on and on. And if I must be honest with you, if you have already suffered a stroke the chances of another one within the next 3 years is very high. Patients who suffer from stroke are very susceptible to getting another. It is nice to enjoy the here and now, and you can have a longer tomorrow IF you plan for it. You can still have fun and eat tasty foods and be healthy. Training our mind and changing our perspective is important for this. Making better shopping choices perhaps by spending more time reading the labels of your products instead of only the price. Death is cheap and very easy to swallow. Living and maintaining good health standards takes a lot more effort. Are you a walking corpse? Take baby steps, make small changes and slowly crawl back out of that coffin you hand-made for yourself.

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