Remember To Take Care Of Yourself Too
When providing constant care to a stroke patient, it can be easy to absorb a considerable amount of secondhand trauma. Caregivers often internalize the stress their patients are under, so prioritize caring for yourself as well as your loved one. Looking after your physical and mental health will also enable you to function at your highest capacity and be a better caregiver.
Do not be afraid to ask a friend or family member to cover for you as the main caregiver for a night so you can recharge your batteries. Being a full-time caregiver can be exhausting, but taking a break every once in a while will give you the space you need to rest and replenish your energy, patience and positivity. Some other simple self-care tips for caregivers to follow include eating healthy, exercising regularly and getting enough rest.
New Insight Into How The Brain Regenerates After Stroke
- University of California – Los Angeles
- Within weeks of a stroke, new blood vessels begin to form, and newly born neurons migrate long distances to the damaged area to aid in the regeneration process of the brain. Using the mouse model, UCLA neurologists have identified the cellular cues that start this process, thus casually linking angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels, and neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons.
When a stroke strikes, the supply of blood to the part of the brain affected is interrupted, starving it of oxygen. Brain cells can be seriously damaged or die, impairing local brain function.
But the brain is a battler. Within weeks of a stroke, new blood vessels begin to form, and, like marching ants, newly born neurons migrate long distances to the damaged area to aid the regeneration process. What’s not known is what the right cellular environment is, and what the cellular cues are for this process of regeneration and migration to take place.
Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability, said Carmichael. And while much is known about the mechanisms of cell death in stroke, little is known about the mechanisms of neurological recovery after a stroke. His lab studies the mechanisms of brain repair and the recovery of function after a stroke.
Materials provided by University of California – Los Angeles. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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What Is A Stroke
A stroke is a type of brain injury that occurs when the brain tissue cannot get enough nutrients and oxygen. This happens because blood flow to the brain has been interrupted or reduced in some way. Without the proper amount of nutrients and oxygen, brain cells quickly begin to die, but early action can minimize brain damage and mitigate complications. Stroke survivors often have weakness on one side of the body, depending on which part of their brain was affected, along with difficulties moving, thinking or talking.
Strategies To Prevent Another Stroke
Its all about keeping the body healthy and fit its never too late. You can help your older loved one make many behavioral changes to prevent another stroke. Each stroke survivor is different, however, so you can tailor programs for every individual. Work with health care professionals doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists to ensure that appropriate prevention strategies are in place.
- Eat a healthy diet by cutting back on sodium and sugar, red meats, fried foods, and empty calories
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Monitor cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure
- Dont smoke
Implications For Stroke Rehabilitation
A stroke occurs when either a clot or rupture in a blood vessel in the brain blocks the blood supply and stops the affected area from receiving the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to keep cells alive and working.
When the affected area of the brain stops receiving the blood that it needs, brain cells die and the corresponding part of the body stops working properly or fails to work at all.
Often, the approach to rehabilitation therapy that individuals receive following a stroke focuses on helping them to compensate for the disability. The researchers propose that their study points to an alternative approach.
Our findings, says senior study author Jin-Moo Lee, a professor of neurology, suggest that we may be able to stimulate recovery by temporarily vacating some brain real estate and making that region of the brain more plastic.
One way to do that might be by immobilizing a healthy limb, he adds.
Understanding Aphasia And Communication Post
About 25-40% of people who have a stroke will experience aphasia. Aphasia is a language and speech disorder that affects a persons ability to speak, listen, read and write. While it doesnt reflect a persons intelligence, it can cause great frustration and stress for the stroke victim as well as caregivers. It impacts everyones ability to communicate effectively.
Aphasia manifests itself in many ways. From difficulty finding the right word, expressing an idea, putting words in the wrong order, and trouble understanding what is said the brain has short-circuited. Speech and language skills are temporarily scrambled with Aphasia.
Its important to exercise patience in communicating with those suffering from Aphasia they need extra time to understand and respond to spoken messages. Aphasia caregivers should consider the following:
- Get the patients full attention before you start communicating
- Eliminate competing and distracting background noise
- Speak slowly, using simple sentences and words
- Speak to the patient like an adult, not a child
- Dont rush them when they respond give them time to speak and resist the urge to speak for them
- If possible, simplify communication with yes and no questions
- Communicate with gestures and facial expressions in addition to speech; use drawings and pictures by keeping a tablet or small whiteboard handy
How The Brain Heals Itself After Stroke
Neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to reorganize neuronsin response to learning or experience.
Your brain is composed of over 100trillion neural connections. These connections are pathways in your brainthat retrieve and store information.
When a stroke occurs, part of the brain becomes damaged and many of these connections are destroyed. That is why many patients struggle with mobility after a stroke, for example; because the neural connections that control movement have been compromised.
However, through neuroplasticity, the brain can form new neural pathways. It can even transfer functions that were once held in damaged parts of the brain to new, healthy areas.
This process allows you to regain movement and other skills after a stroke. But it requires your help.
Best Brain Supplements For Stroke Recovery
While there isnt much evidence that shows supplements prevent strokes, they can enhance recovery, brain repair, and reduce risk. Here are some suggested vitamins to incorporate:
- Vitamin C: Helps to repair damaged blood vessels, reduce build-up in arteries, and regain memory.
- Vitamin E: May help with regaining memory loss.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Reduces cholesterol levels, blood clots, high blood pressure.
- Vitamin B-6 & -12: Can help to reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Too much homocysteine is linked with higher chances of stroke.
How Neuroplasticity Helps The Brain Repair Itself After Traumatic Injury
Your brain is composed of over 100 trillion neural connections. When you experience brain trauma, many of the neural connections you once had become damaged or destroyed.
This explains why you might lose the ability to speak after a TBI, for example. Because the neural connections that helped you understand language have been lost.
While the brain does not generate new neurons after an injury, it can compensate for that loss by changing the way information flows throughout the brain. This is where neuroplasticity steps in.
Through neuroplasticity, the brain can form new neural pathways, and therefore repair some of the damage it sustained. It can even transfer functions that were once held in damaged parts of the brain to new, healthy areas.
Think of it as a detour on the road. If the way is blocked or destroyed, youll have to find another route. Neuroplasticity creates that route.
How To Help Your Brain Heal After An Injury
Many people have a first-aid kit for lifes mishaps, and its just as important to have a concussion first-aid kit that can minimize damage and accelerate the healing process. In addition, you should protect yourself from hurting your brain again as repeat injuries increase the risk of serious long-term problems. Other self-care techniques you can use to help your brain heal include:
Head trauma is associated with so many cognitive and psychological issues, including depression, anxiety, memory loss, and ADD/ADHD. If youve been suffering without relief from traditional treatments, it may be time to investigate if you may have an underlying brain injury thats contributing to your symptoms. These issues cant wait. During these uncertain times, your cognitive and mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to normal is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.
Caring For Someone Who’s Had A Stroke
There are many ways you can provide support to a friend or relative who’s had a stroke.
- helping them do their physiotherapy exercises in between their sessions with the physiotherapist
- providing emotional support and reassurance that their condition will improve with time
- helping to motivate them to reach their long-term goals
- adapting to any needs they may have, such as speaking slowly if they have communication problems
Caring for someone after they’ve had a stroke can be a frustrating and lonely experience. The advice outlined below may help.
Mice With Trimmed Whiskers Healed Quicker
To test this idea, they induced stroke in two groups of mice such that it impaired their ability to control their right forepaw.
Following the stroke, they trimmed off the whiskers of one group of mice and left them intact in the other group. Then, they observed the animals recovery and their use of the forepaws.
However, the mice with intact whiskers recovered much more slowly; by week 4, they were still not using their right forepaw and had only partly recovered use of it by week 8.
Scans of the mices brains showed marked differences in both the stroke-affected and neighboring areas. In the brains of the mice with the trimmed whiskers, the activity associated with forepaw use had moved to the area that is normally associated with use of whiskers.
However, in the mice with intact whiskers, the forepaw activity moved to any of several areas next to the injured site.
The following short video from the Washington University School of Medicine sums up the results in the mice:
Can You Heal A Damaged Brain
No, you cannot heal a damaged brain. Medical treatments can just help to stop further damage and limit the functional loss from the damage. The healing process of the brain is not the same as the skin. When the skin gets damaged, such as due to minor skin wounds, it usually heals wells without leaving scars. Major wounds can heal with scarring. Skin healing is completed by replacing the damaged/lost cells with new ones. In the brain, the damaged cells are nerve cells known as neurons and neurons cannot regenerate. The damaged area gets necrosed and it is never the same as it was before.
When the brain gets injured, you are often left with disabilities that persist for the rest of your life. Rehabilitation can help in functional recovery, but structural abnormality is hard to correct with available treatments.
What Type Of Symptoms Are Common
A stroke can have physical, mental and emotional effects. Here are common physical conditions that occur after a stroke:
- Weakness or paralysis: Weakness or paralysis occurs in 80% of stroke victims. One whole side of the body may be affected, or movement in just a leg or arm could be impaired. Depending on which side of the brain experienced the stroke, the opposite side of the body will see the effects.
- Balance or coordination complications: A stroke survivor may struggle to sit, stand or walk despite adequate muscle strength.
- Sensations of pain or numbness: Abnormal sensations may make a stroke survivor unable to get comfortable or relax at times.
- Trouble swallowing: Difficulties swallowing may make eating more frustrating after a stroke.
- Bowel or urinary control problems: Bowel or urinary incontinence can be common in stroke survivors.
- Fatigue: Stroke patients may get tired quickly, which can make fully participating in a stroke rehabilitation program challenging.
Stroke survivors may also endure these mental health symptoms:
These are some of the emotional effects a stroke survivor might experience:
If There Is No Healing How Does The Brain Repair Itself
The brain can be repaired in the following ways
After the damage of brain cells or neurons in a certain area of the brain, the surviving brain cells adapt to compensate for the lost cells. This ability of the brain is known as neuroplasticity, which helps the brain to repair itself. Though damage in the affected areas seems to be irreparable with current therapies, the brain can train its surviving cells to carry its functions.
Neuroplasticity helps recovery from brain damage, but rehabilitation therapy is needed to enhance this neuroplasticity. The quicker the rehabilitation process, the quicker is the recovery. However, some may never recover at all.
Rehabilitation is a special type of therapy that helps to improve the ability to perform daily activities, such as walking, climbing stairs and cooking.
The type and the duration of rehabilitation depend on how severe the injury is and the part of the brain that is injured.
Rehabilitation therapy includes
How Neuroplasticity Works
The damage inflicted by a stroke is unique to every patient, and so is the recovery process. It is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The brain uses 100 trillion neural connections or pathways to retrieve and store information. When a stroke occurs, any combination of those 100 trillion connections could be impacted. The brain and the central nervous system can identify environmental, behavioral, and neural damage, but they need assistance and stimulation to change or adapt. Thats where therapists and stroke survivors play a vital role. A variety of exercises and movements can be used to provide cues to the brain. Those cues direct the brain on how to rewire and adapt, creating new neural pathways that can work around any brain damage and alleviate or compensate for physical and mental deficits.
Under normal circumstances, the brain adapts continually to new experiences, activities, behaviors, injuries, and trauma. With each new experience, neural connections and cortical maps are remodeled. While the brain may adapt on its own to stroke-related cell death on some level, it must be stimulated with specific cues to adapt and repair effectively. Otherwise, restoration of function will be limited.
How Could This Happen
What happens is that the brain sort of rewires itself. Nerve cells sprout extensions that spread out and connect with nerve cells in other parts of the brain. This allows other parts of the brain to take over the jobs that used to be done by the part of the brain that was damaged.
You can see this in Figure 2, showing results of a study called a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan. MRI scans use a very powerful magnet that switches on and off. When the magnet switches on, it makes atoms in the cells spin to line up with the magnetic poles of the magnet. When the magnet switches off the atoms spin back, and they give off radio signals that can be detected and mapped, so that images of the brain can be made: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_resonance_imaging. Functional MRI assesses changes in blood flow in different parts of the brain during brain activity. The figure is explained in Box 1.
- Figure 2 – Functional MRI images showing the brain recovery on both sides of the brain.
- The figure is explained in box 1.
Bodily Inflammation And Stroke
Inflammation in the body is a defense mechanism against infection and injury. For example, if you scrape your knee, that area will become inflamed as your body attempts to heal the area.
Unfortunately, a poor lifestyle and bad eating habits could foster long-term bodily inflammation specifically inflammation in the arteries that can eventually lead to stroke.
For example, high cholesterol is one of the leading causes of stroke. When theres too much LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, the body produces an inflammation response in attempt to get rid of the invading cholesterol.
When the body stays in this state of inflammation long-term, it leads to chronic inflammation, which can damage arteries and eventually lead to heart attack or stroke.
So, what can you do to reduce your risk of stroke from long-term inflammation?
Manage Dietary Ldl Cholesterol
While we need some cholesterol in order to be healthy, too much LDL cholesterol can cause inflammation in the arteries.
Get your cholesterol levels checked, and if your LDL cholesterol levels are high, take action to reduce it by reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet. This means less butter, red meat, and palm oil.
You can also improve cholesterol by exercising regularly and getting adequate fiber in your diet. And if all else fails, talk to your doctor about statins, a cholesterol-lowering medication.
Brain Regeneration And Synaptic Density
Synapses are junctions between neurons that allow communication. Synaptic plasticity is the change that happens at synapses and affects the quality of the communication between two neurons. Short-term synaptic plasticity is a rapid, sub-second change that reverts to normal quickly.
Long-term synaptic plasticity is a longer change that may last for minutes, hours, days, or years. Long-term synaptic plasticity is critical for our brains ability to store information and for our memory.
Research has shown that BDNF is critical for long-term enhancement of synaptic efficacy. It improves neural development and synaptic plasticity, hence it may lower the risk of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, such as , Alzheimers disease, Huntington disease, and depression .
Healing After A Stroke
The damage of a stroke is fast and aggressive. Recovery, on the other hand, is slow, subtle, and stepwise, with the most rapid changes occurring during the first few weeks following stroke.
Recovery and healing may occur spontaneously. However, there are medical interventions that can help maximize repair and functional recovery.
Stroke treatment helps improve the overall outcome after a stroke, but treatment does not usually speed up the rate of recovery.
The Motor And Sensory Tests
Researchers tested motor functions by having mice walk forward on a rotating rod without falling off. They tested sensory and motor function by placing tape on the mouses forepaw and observed how long it took the mice to remove the adhesive.
Rodents given human stem cells and treated with 3K3A-APC performed much better on these performance tests, said Zhen Zhao, co-lead author and an assistant professor of research physiology and biophysics at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute.
Ways Caregivers Can Promote Stroke Recovery
Stroke recovery can be extremely challenging to recover from and cope with. A caregiver can support your older loved one in recovery at home and maximize their long-term independence. Here are a few ways a professional caregiver can help:
New Approaches Offer Hope
As scientists learn more about these intrinsic repair processes, they are finding more potential targets for therapies. But most relevant for patients right now, Koroshetz said, are the efforts to improve standard rehabilitation care. Studies suggest that intense physical therapy even after the crucial six month window after the stroke can produce results.
Koroshetz noted a clinical trial of stroke patients from five hospitals in Florida and California which showed that intensive rehabilitation, either with in-home exercises or on a specially outfitted treadmill, led to improved walking ability as compared to “standard of care” rehabilitation. Most surprising, Koroshetz said, was the finding that even six months after their strokes, patients who had received only standard care could still make substantial improvement in walking by undergoing intensive treadmill training.
“This tells us that our standard of physical and rehabilitation therapy after a stroke is not optimal,” Koroshetz. Patients often can benefit from more intensive therapy regimes, he said, and clinicians, patients and health care systems need to recognize that.
Brain Remaps Functions To Nearby Areas
There are more than 6.5 million stroke survivors in the U.S. Thanks to the brains plasticity, or ability to adapt, many survivors naturally recover some amount of function. An example is a survivor who cannot move an arm at first but finds that a few days later, they can start to wiggle their fingers.
Research using brain imaging shows that in such cases, the brain has rewired control of the fingers to a neighbouring undamaged area.
The extent of recovery is closely linked to how well the brain remaps sensory and control functions from the damaged to the undamaged area.
However, the cost of this plasticity is that the brain is constantly trying to free up real estate on which to build the new circuits. One way that unused real estate becomes available is when signaling to and from an area stops for example, when a limb is amputated.
Prof. Lee and his colleagues wondered whether sensory deprivation might be a way to free up real estate near a stroke-injured area, and if the brain would use this opportunity to remap the disabled functions to that area.
Be Prepared For Changed Behaviour
Someone who’s had a stroke can often seem as though they have had a change in personality and appear to act irrationally at times.
This is the result of the psychological and cognitive impact of a stroke.
They may become angry or resentful towards you. Upsetting as it may be, try not to take it personally.
It’s important to remember they’ll often start to return to their old self as their rehabilitation and recovery progresses.
New Insights Into Brain’s Repair System Point To Improved Stroke Therapies
Dr. Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, discusses brain-computer interfaces and stroke recovery. New research is revealing how the stroke-damaged brain can respond to treatment, even after the crucial first six months when most recovery typically occurs, a leading stroke expert said at a briefing arranged by AAAS with support from the Dana Foundation.
Dr. Walter Koroshetz, deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said research on the brain’s plasticity as well as some striking developments in robotics and brain-machine interfaces are giving new hope for stroke patients.
He called the science of stroke recovery “the brightest and most exciting area in stroke research.” But in remarks at the 22 May Capitol Hill briefing hosted by AAAS in conjunction with Rep. Chaka Fattah Koroshetz offered some sobering statistics on the prevalence, impact and cost of stroke.