How to Survive a Stroke with Bill Monroe – Upside of 40 with Sean Mooney

Listen to the episode here

Key Takeaways 

  • Certain medications for breaking up blood clots in the brain are only effective within the first few hours after symptoms appear
    • For this reason, go to the hospital as soon as you think you’re having a stroke
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea are leading stroke risk factors
  • Use the acronym BE FAST to remember the signs of a stroke:
    • Balance – sudden loss of
    • Eyes – blurred vision
    • Facial drooping
    • Arm weakness
    • Speech difficulty, slurred
    • Time to call 911 if these symptoms are present in any combination
  • 20% of strokes have no known cause

Intro                                                                      

Life Before a Stroke

  • Did Bill have any health problems before his stroke?
    • At age 46, he was overweight and had both high cholesterol and high blood pressure (210/160)
      • Plaque accumulates in arteries from high cholesterol causing them to narrow and become less flexible
  • Did doctors warn Bill of the risk for stroke?
    • “They had given me warnings, but at that point, it was white noise- sure. I didn’t think about it.”
    • 20% of strokes have no known cause

The Story of Bill’s Stroke

  • When Bill woke up on June 3, 2017, he noticed his left arm felt funny and that his left leg was wobbly
    • The left side of his face had also started drooping
    • He continued to lose functionality until 3 pm

If you think you’re experiencing a stroke…

  • Because I woke up with symptoms, it meant that I was outside the window for some meds that mediate effects of stroke”
    • Because of this – Go to the hospital as soon as symptoms appear
      • Certain medications for breaking up blood clots in the brain are only effective within the first few hours; it’s a very narrow window
      • The more quickly the clot starts dissolving, the quicker blood starts getting to the part of the brain that’s starving for it
  • Use an ambulance for transport: paramedics recognize stroke AND know which hospitals specialize in stroke care

The Aftermath of Bill’s Stroke

  • Bill was left with paralysis of the life side of his face as well as his arm/leg
  • A couple of days after the stroke, Bill began his rehab
  • A few notes on the rehab process:
    • Nerves have to regrow to teach the brain how to talk to muscles again
    • In rehab, the goal is to bring back the brain-muscle connections through movement
      • Movement provides the signal/data that’s then sent back to the brain so it can start building new connections
      • Nerves that fire together, wire together!
    • The term “muscle memory” isn’t entirely accurate because memory is in the brain, not the muscles
    • The fastest recovery happens in the first couple of months
    • Rehab pace varies based on:
      • Where the stroke occurred in the brain
      • How you were wired to begin with
      • ATTITUDE
    • Progress is NOT limited to what you do during the first two months
      • Bill is still getting function back 2 years later

How has Bill changed the way he takes care of himself?

  • He watches his cholesterol and tries to keeps his blood pressure down
  • He focuses much more on exercise
  • He focuses on sleep
    • Getting poor sleep can contribute to weight gain which, in turn, increase the risk for stroke

The 5 Key Lessons Bill Learned from His Stroke Recovery Process

  • Repetition is how the brain learns
    • Do physical and occupational exercises as often as you can – they build connections in the brain
  • Solve life’s everyday problems like they’re puzzles
  • Be responsible for your own recovery
    • Therapists are not with you 24/7- “The only one that can make it happen is me”
  • Prioritize sleep
    • The brain needs downtime for “maintenance”
    • If you’re not getting good sleep, your brain can’t make crucial repairs or build new nerve connection
  • Celebrate small victories
    • Celebrate the little things along the way (like being able to bend your wrist or make a fist) – it makes the recovery process so much easier

Closing Advice from Bill

  • Know your numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar
  • Use the acronym BE FAST to remember the signs of a stroke:
    • Balance – sudden loss of
    • Eyes – blurred vision
    • Facial drooping
    • Arm weakness
    • Speech difficulty, slurred
    • Time to call 911 if these symptoms are present in any combination
  • Don’t get best, get better
    • “You don’t have to be the best at everything you do, just get a little better every day”
  • Be positive – mental attitude helps with recovery
  • Don’t wait for something catastrophic to occur to make changes to your lifestyle
    • “There might not be tomorrow”
  • According to the CDC, 800,000 Americans suffer strokes every year – about 140,000 will die annually
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