Stroke survivors must be vigilant to prevent more from happening

Published: Saturday, May 12 2012 4:46 p.m. MDT

Elizabeth Sunderman

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Long-term care is essential in managing the effects of a stroke and to keep additional ones from happening.

Callers to the Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline Saturday demonstrated various problems within the health care system, as some insurance companies only cover a certain number of therapy sessions each year.

While the restrictions might reset each year, therapy is an critical part of recovery for stroke patients, as the brain attacks can often cause permanent damage.

"It is important to prevent further strokes and that can be done by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, but also with exercise," said Dr. Elizabeth Sunderman, a neurohospitalist at Intermountain Medical Center.

Since stroke often weakens one side of the body, causing disuse atrophy, Sunderman said it sometimes helps to tie a person's good hand behind their back, forcing them to use the other more and perhaps strengthen it.

Sunderman and nurse Kelly Anderson help to implement a successful stroke treatment program at the hospital and had much advice for the handful of callers.

Intermountain's Orthopedic Specialty Hospital also holds a support group for stroke survivors, as well as for those having trouble with speech. The sessions teach recovery methods, as well as help to forge relationships between participants and professionals who work to help them.

The next free support group for stroke survivors is scheduled for May 24 at 7 p.m. More information can be found online, at www.intermountainhealthcare.org.

Diet and exercise can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as help control diabetes. In some cases, low-dose aspirin helps to prevent problems, but patients should follow direction from their doctors.

Sunderman said if a person is experiencing neurological problems, they should see a doctor.

"If you're feeling like you're going to pass out, you shouldn't drive," she said. "It puts you and others at a tremendous risk."

The health hotline is offered to readers through a partnership between Intermountain Healthcare and the Deseret News. It covers a different health topic the second Saturday of each month.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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