Health Check: Before and After a Stroke Strikes


Every 10 minutes, someone in Canada has a stroke. Even with rapid access to emergency care, strokes are often life-changing events, and can be debilitating for many. Dr. Thalia Field, clinician-scientist and past Director of the Postgraduate Stroke Fellowship Program at VGH, shares some tips for recognizing a stroke, supporting a loved one in recovery and ways you can lower your risk of experiencing one in the first place.

Stroke Prevention

While you aren’t able to control your age or family history, you can make two important lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of stroke. Maintain a healthy weight through exercise and eating well, including reducing your intake of salt and saturated fats. Focus on eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This will also help maintain lower blood pressure—the biggest contributor of stroke risk in both men and women. Working with your primary care provider to monitor for and to treat high blood pressure is an important part of reducing your stroke risk.

Photo: Dr. Thalia Field with a patient

Recognize a stroke

When a stroke strikes, time is brain. 

Quick assessment and treatment are vital for ensuring the best possible outcome. 

If you suspect someone near you is having a stroke, think FAST. 

Is one side of their Face drooping? 

Ask them to raise both Arms—is one drifting below the other?

Is their Speech slurred or jumbled?

If the answers are yes, it’s Time to call 911 immediately. 


Post-stroke recovery

Stroke affects every person differently. Some will recover and remain independent, but many patients will need to re-learn basic skills. Talking, walking, writing, dressing, meal preparation and the million other little things we take for granted every day can become a challenge or impossible to do. Rehabilitation under expert guidance at places like GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre can help patients transition back to their homes and lives. 

Emotional support is a critical part of recovery, whether or not someone has overt physical or functional challenges after their stroke. Many friends and loved ones feel awkward and may not know how to connect with or support a post-stroke patient. Feeling unsure is OK. Have open, honest conversations with each other and health care providers, and consider connecting with peer support groups.

The donor-supported Vancouver Stroke Program at VGH is staffed by expert neurologists who provide real-time stroke care for the entire province, improving outcomes for patients no matter where they are in BC.

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