Caregiver Resources - Heart & Stroke

The heart is a muscle that gets energy from blood carrying oxygen and nutrients. Having a constant supply of blood keeps the heart working properly. Most people think of heart disease as one condition. But in fact, heart disease is a group of conditions affecting the structure and functions of the heart and has many root causes.

Coronary artery disease develops when a combination of fatty materials, calcium and scar tissue (called plaque) builds up in the arteries that supply blood to your heart (coronary arteries). The plaque buildup narrows the arteries and prevents the heart from getting enough blood. Heart disease is preventable and manageable by controlling the risk factors that could lead to coronary artery disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and being overweight.

When diagnosed with a heart condition, there are treatments to help manage the illness. The goal is to reduce risk by considering these heart-healthy steps: be smoke-free; be physically active; know and control your blood pressure; eat a healthy diet that is lower in fat, especially saturated and trans fat; achieve and maintain a healthy weight; manage diabetes; limit alcohol use; reduce stress and follow your health care provider’s advice.

Heart Attack Warning signs

Warning signs can vary from person to person and they may not always be sudden or severe.  Some people will not experience chest pain at all, while others will experience only mild chest pain or discomfort. Others may experience one symptom, while some experience a combination.
•   Chest discomfort (uncomfortable chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness)
•   Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back)
•   Shortness of breath • Sweating • Nausea • Light-headedness 

Stroke

A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. It is caused by the interruption of flow of blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). The interruption of blood flow or the rupture of blood vessels causes brain cells (neurons) in the affected area to die. The effects of a stroke depend on where the brain was injured, as well as how much damage occurred. A stroke can impact any number of areas including your ability to move, see, remember, speak, reason, read and write.

Stroke is a medical emergency. Recognizing and responding immediately to the stroke warning signs by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number can significantly improve survival and recovery.

In a small number of cases, stroke-like damage to the brain can occur when the heart stops (cardiac arrest). The longer the brain goes without oxygen and nutrients supplied by blood flow, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage. Brain injuries can also result in uncontrolled bleeding and permanent brain damage. This is usually referred to as an Acquired Brain Injury. When someone has a stroke, the functions that are affected depend upon which area of the brain was damaged and how much damage occurred.

Stroke can be treated. That's why it is so important to recognize and respond to the warning signs.

•  Weakness is a sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg
•  Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or confusion even if temporary
•  Sudden trouble with vision
•  Sudden severe and unusual headache
•  Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs
•  Dizziness

References

  1. Heart & Stroke Foundation.  Retrieved March 2014 from: 
    http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.2796497/k.BF8B/Home.htm