May 30, 2018

The Importance of Stroke Awareness and Prevention

Nearly 800,000 people in the United States suffer from a stroke each year, with about three in four being first-time strokes. These strokes are also the leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability. For National Stroke Month, our Medical Director of Inpatient Rehabilitation Services, Dr. Sushmita Veloor shares why she believes education and awareness are so important. “I believe it is significantly important to spread awareness focused on strokes,” she shares. “Someone has a stroke every 45 seconds, so we still have a lot of work to do in order to prevent strokes and decrease the amount of incidents.” Dr. Veloor works very closely with our team of therapists in our Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit to individually treat patients after they have had a stroke.
“Prevention is our overall goal,” says Dr. Veloor. “80% of the time we can prevent these strokes, so putting in place proper education of the signs of stroke is very important.” The F.A.S.T. signs of stroke according to the American Stroke Association are:
-       Face Dropping
-       Arm Weakness
-       Speech Difficulty
-       Time To Call 911
If anyone experiences any of the symptoms listed above, it is recommended they call 911 immediately! “Even if these symptoms do not last very long, someone could be suffering from a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA),” says Dr. Veloor. “Many times people ignore the symptoms because they do not last and then it turns into a real stroke, where the deficits last longer and they have more permanent impairments leading to disabilities.” Individuals who suffer from a mini stroke have a much higher risk of suffering from a stroke. “If we are able to treat someone who has had a mini stroke, we can implement proper care and figure out what is happening and prevent a stroke from happening, which is vital.”
Along with knowing the signs of stroke, it is also important to know the risk factors associated with strokes. “There are several risk factors,” says Dr. Veloor. “Some factors can be modified and some factors cannot.” Risk factors associated with stroke that cannot be changed are:
-       Age
-       Gender
-       Race
-       Family History
-       Previously Had a Stroke
The risk factors that can be modified are associated with someone’s overall lifestyle. For patients with diabetes, it is imperative they manage their diabetes appropriately by controlling their sodium intake and watching their blood sugars. For patients without diabetes, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and making dietary changes as necessary are changes you can make to reduce your risk of having a stroke. “There are also risk factors that need more medical intervention,” Dr. Veloor shares. “High blood pressure is a leading cause of strokes, so if we can intervene and manage a patient’s blood pressure, we can significantly reduce their risk of having a stroke.”
After a patient has a stroke, Dr. Veloor meets with the patient and their family to evaluate treatment options. “Some patients may not realize the extent of their impairments or their deficits,” she shares. “So we talk to them and educate them on why they may need more help recovering from a stroke and why starting rehabilitation early on can definitely make an impact on their overall recovery process.”
Some individuals who have had a stroke are able to go home and do outpatient therapy, but for others who are significantly impaired and dependent on others for all of their care, they need more aggressive therapy services. “We offer these services at The University of Kansas St. Francis Campus Inpatient Rehabilitation Center,” says Dr. Veloor. “With every patient, we take a team approach to their treatment. As a physiatrist, I talk to the patient after they have this life-changing incident and educate them about the process of rehab and talk about what to expect, the recovery process and goals they can work towards. We also focus on a holistic approach, focusing on each patient’s physical needs but also any other underlying needs they have, such as depression due to the loss of the use of an arm or leg, for example. We have to keep in mind that there could be other issues we need to treat. So overall, there is a combination of medication management, education, and then therapy, which can vary from physical, therapy occupational therapy, and speech therapy, which we tailor and treat every patient individually as a team.”
Dr. Veloor decided to become a physiatrist because of the diversity. “I treat stroke patients, patients with spinal cord injuries or brain injuries and much more,” she says. “It offers a wide variety for me and keeps me motivated because I learn every day. No matter how many years I have been in practice, I come across something new every day. I also love working with a team and the interdisciplinary approach we take. But overall, the more rewarding part of what I do is seeing patients improve and recover. Watching their journey from start to finish and seeing patients regain their independence is amazing.”
To learn more about Dr. Veloor, please click here. To learn more about our Inpatient Rehabilitation Services, please call 785-295-5545.

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