Conventional medicine view
A stroke occurs when there are problems with the blood supply to the brain: either the blood
supply becomes blocked or a blood vessel within the brain ruptures, causing brain tissue to die.
A stroke is a medical emergency, and treatment must be sought as quickly as possible.
It can happen at any age, at any time, and without warning.
Many health discussions focus on heart disease. And while this is an important preventative
discussion, just as importantly, the blood vessels that feed the brain (known as cerebral
vasculature) are equally as vulnerable and in need of protection. And it is the health of these
cerebral vessels that's important in preventing a stroke.
Ever wondered how blood gets to your brain?
Briefly and simply, the brain receives its blood supply from the two internal carotid arteries that course up the sides of the neck as well as the two vertebral arteries that travel up the back of the neck. These arteries combine and form what is called the circle of Willis, a ring of vessels from which all major cerebral vessels arise. Before combining, the vertebral and basilar arteries also send off branches to feed the other parts of the brain like the brainstem and the cerebellum which plays an important role in motor control and is also be involved in some cognitive functions such as attention and language, and in regulating fear and pleasure responses,
A stroke results from a blockage of a cerebral vessel and can be devastating, resulting in impaired quality of life or even in end of life.
Known risk factors include elevated blood pressure, elevated lipids ( molecules that make up the building blocks of the structure and function of living cells), diabetes, smoking, alcohol, obesity, genetics, underlying disease such as autoimmunity or blood disorders, medications and drugs, stress, poor nutrition, poor sleep as well as sleep apnoea, age, or a previous stroke or heart attack. The common pathway for many of these risk factors? Inflammation. Many of these risk factors result in inflammation of the vessels, known as vasculitis.
The area of the brain affected by the stroke is based on the specific vessel that has been unable to deliver proper blood supply to its corresponding brain tissue. And each region of brain tissue has an associated function, whether its motor, sensory, visual, perception, speech, or cognition.
There can be some stroke warning signs—but oftentimes there are none.
Be aware of when someone, or even yourself, is having a stroke – apply the FAST test.
Face: look at the person's face and ask them to smile. Has their face fallen on one
Arms: ask the person to raise both of their arms and keep them there. Are they
unable to raise one arm?
Speech: ask the person to tell you their name, or say 'hello'. Is their speech slurred?
Time: don’t delay. If you spot any of these signs, always call 999.
There may be other symptoms and if you experience the following, urgent assistance on 999 must be sought.
complete paralysis of one side of the body
difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
difficulty understanding what others are saying
loss of consciousness
problems with balance and co-ordination
sudden loss or blurring of vision
sudden and very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
The quicker you receive treatment, the better your chances for a good recovery.
There are three main kinds of stroke:
1.Ischemic strokes, caused by a narrowing or blocking of arteries to the brain. These are treated with 'clot-busting' drugs.
2.Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by blood vessels in and around the brain bursting or leaking. They can be treated with surgery to repair or block blood vessel weaknesses.
3.Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), also referred to as mini-strokes
I was talking to a friend the other day, recovering from a stroke that happened some eighteen months ago. He had been told by his medics that part of his brain had died and there was no hope for any further improvement. So he bought into this, and had given up even thinking about trying.
Now it may be true that he may never recover his memory, but in speaking with him, given time, he actually has good recall, both long term and short term, but keeps telling himself he can’t remember. So who knows how much memory he may retrieve.
And who knows what brain function he may recover. There is still so much we have yet to discover about the brain.
But does that mean he should give up developing whatever capacity he does have remaining? Is it just possible he could create and strengthen new neural pathways in the brain?
He asked me if I could write some words of hope, so here are some of them.
“I think first is to be clear what you are trying to do – (1) improve your memory or (2) improve brain function. Take one and focus on that.
Here I am going to focus on brain function. And why?
From our conversations, your memory is still bringing things back to your awareness from times gone by and from very recent times but I’ve noticed, whatever we talk about, you are still capable of remembering times past both long term and short term. So maybe your memory is better than you think. And maybe the odd blip is to do with natural ageing!
Maybe it’s nothing to do with the stroke. Some of the things you said yesterday I can resonate with – about forgetting and not remembering.
So maybe, as a starter, acknowledge each day what you can remember – and give gratitude for that; that will reinforce those neural pathways.
Reinforcing is the key to good memory and keeping the pathways open. So perhaps, tedious though it may be, writing things down on post it notes, no matter how trivial, re-reading them, may be a good way of not only remembering but keeping that neural pathways open and alive. Use it or lose it kind of principle.
As for how to improve your brain function
You need to forge new neural pathways in the brain. To take over from the ones that are dormant. The previous ones are, with the stroke, like rivers that have dried up so, instead of a doctor saying, bits of the brain don’t work, maybe see them as rivers that have dried up. But that doesn’t mean that new rivers can’t and won’t be created or that old rivers cannot be refilled. Nature tells us they can be. Who knows. Take it easy, see what happens.
So, new rivers? Your consciousness (your awareness on which you have thoughts) needs to express itself, so it needs to find new pathways or rivers of expression so as you rightly said yesterday, you need to be doing things eg with your right arm that send the message to the brain, regularly, that this is the new way, the new path. Imagine now multiplying this!!
First you have to create the right conditions for helping the brain eg
Be open minded
Be willing to convert negative thinking to positive
Destress as much as possible
Be open to challenging your present way of thinking – even if a doctor says there is no hope, you can choose to give yourself hope and chances.
Every time you have a judgement or a negative thought – challenge it. Apply “TheWork” by Byron Katie in which she asks you to challenge your thoughts, beliefs and feelings, by asking these questions
1.Is what I am thinking or believe actually true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
2.Can I absolutely know that it's true? (Yes or no.) Where’s your evidence? What tells you it is really true?
3.How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? EG I say things best unsaid, I get angry, I shut down, I don’t tell people the truth etc
4.Who would I be without the thought? So, for example, if you didn’t believe in what others may think about you, who would you be? This is about being authentic and real.
I believe there is no hope. Do I know this to be true? I’m not sure.
Can I absolutely know that it’s true? My doctor says part of my brain is dead but I really don’t know what that means and how true it is.
How do I react when I believe the thought that there is no hope? I get annoyed. Then I get depressed, thinking, what if that is really true, what’s the point then?
Who would I be without that thought? I would be someone who makes up his own mind. I would be more assertive. I would be more demanding of doctors and ask them to prove there is no hope and in more than just a ten second sentence.
All the above so far may make you think, what’s the point of this?
The point is to get you thinking differently, your brain working differently with the cells and neurons it has that are unaffected. As you think new thoughts, and reinforce them, you create new neural pathways in the brain.
You then need to reinforce, repeat these new thoughts AND where possible, act them out on a regular basis. It’s not enough to say, “I am now positive” you have to ACT as if you are. Do one thing each day that is new and positive. It does not need to be a grand gesture. A simple act of writing something positive in your diary counts.
There is no guarantee this will work. But even if it helps make tiny improvements in your life, day on day, week on week, then each step is success, and offers yet more hope.
You always have a choice as to whether you buy into others’ negativity unless of course they can prove that what they say is accurate.
Metaphysics is about what lies beyond the physical world, what are the deeper sub-conscious beliefs a person may hold but which trigger and effect a particular illness. Most people do not know about metaphysics and so the first reaction is usually to dismiss it. The fact someone thinks it’s hooky kooky stuff, does not make it wrong. Treat it as an additional way of thinking about something.
And please remember, this is not an alternative view, alternative to conventional. It is not about either or – it is about both / and. If you are in the midst of a stroke you don’t have time to pray, get out aroma therapy oils, or meditate – you need urgent attention and conventional medicine does this best. Then in recovery, you can also consider what metaphysical and complimentary medicine has to teach you.
Stroke – a metaphysical perspective
Metaphysically, in brief, a stroke is about a failing to honour one’s body – mind - spirit; that means not looking after the body, burning the candle at both ends, overdoing it with alcohol or other drugs, using alcohol to replace the real spirit, and so on. And it is about not paying attention to how one’s thinking, one’s beliefs, affects one’s health. Are your thoughts toward yourself kind and loving or harsh and critical? Do they help you create health, or deny health?
Some in the metaphysical sciences sometimes say that stroke should be renamed to "strike" for strokes are invariably caused by the body-mind going on strike, ceasing to function, against the individual's lifestyle, saying enough is enough, no more. Our body parts, our cells, our organs etc all talk to each other.
To those around the individual, strokes are seldom a surprise because they can usually see how over time a person has failed to honour him or herself. But so often, we do not give the person feedback, we’re afraid of their reaction, and then when the stroke occurs, we berate ourselves for wishing we had. But wouldn’t we really want a real friend to pass us the nod that we need to think about what we are doing to ourselves?
Stroke "victims" generally have consistently dishonoured their bodies; that have failed to give their body proper food, drink, exercise, sleep, time-out, and other things "which everyone knows" they should do. They do not honour their minds by consistently getting the "time off" they need to play, "re-charge", and "re-create" themselves, to stop and smell the roses, reflect on life. Or they carry bad habits of thinking, believing that they must obey others, or give full credence to what others think of them. They swallow without discernment life rules passed down by others., by the media, by the government. How many of us swallowed what the government has told us over the years about food, about nutrition, about diabetes, etc?
It is "no accident" that since stroke "victims" do not honour their bodies or minds as the temples of spirit they are, that at some point the temples give up and collapse around them. Unfortunately, it is only when the temple of the body and mind are permanently damaged by stroke that the person learns the lesson - in this life if they are lucky, in the next if they are not.
But learning the lesson then heeding it. ie doing something about it, can also be lives apart.
Some of the beliefs people hold that can lead to a stroke include : -
I can’t go on – it’s all too much
I feel like giving up
What’s the point
I can’t make myself better, it’s all too hard, nothing works
There’s no hope, the doctor says so, so it must be true
I am being punished
Nothing I do ever works out
There is no reason for living
Life is too hard
I want to die
And dare one add here, be careful what you think of; you may just get it. So if someone is constantly believing any of the above, then sooner or later the blood gets the message, the river runs dry.
If we look more deeply at Stroke and its causes from a metaphysical perspective, ie not just about the physical blood supply to the brain being a problem, metaphysically we get the following deeply embedded mindsets ie they operate out with your conscious awareness-that’s what makes them difficult to accept. But they at least give us hints to causation whereas what in conventional medicine tells us what causes the blood to the brain to become a problem? Why can some people smoke and it does not lead to stroke and yet others, it is said, their stroke is down to their smoking. Why don’t we address what causes a person to smoke so much it creates problems?
So,metaphysically, for Stroke we get
A subconscious attitude of giving up. We learn to do as we are told or how we think others think of us. We feel we cannot live our own lives so we give up even trying. A stroke is often the heart giving up. Because being who we are is at the heart of the matter and sometimes we do not want to go there. This happens a lot to men and men are more likely to have a stroke than women. I wonder why!
Resistance. I’m right, they are wrong, so I’ll do it my way. We then resist what we know is going on. It’s all about them. We don’t deal with it. We are afraid of what others might think about us so we resist telling them or showing them truthfully who we are. We would rather die than change. We give up and become lazy. We make excuses. Because we believe, our way of thinking, our worldview is right – that we should keep ourselves hidden and resist facing the world. And all the time we may be in a job or lifestyle where we protest we are giving it our all! And we will be. Remember, this resistance is often outside our awareness at this stage.
Rejection of life. Somehow as we feel others might reject who we are and our life, we begin to reject our own life, it is we who ask, “What’s the point?”. Rather than look within, we point the finger without and blame others. We live as others would have us be rather than just be proud of who we are and live our own passions. This is extreme in Indian sub-cultures where children are expected to do as parents say. So we try to fit in, go along with what’s expected of us, or sometimes we will fierce fully fight for the opposite, but we reject the life that we are meant to live.
Stuttering – we probably protest that we cannot live our real life because, because, because -you can tell this person simply in their manner of speaking – but the becauses are excuses for our resistances. So, we invent stories, and as these are stories, we sometimes stutter them out because in the moment we are making them up, but these are the stories, of our woundology, that we think are real and so we tell them to the world. Again, we are not being honest and authentic. We are telling stories, not truth. We are making it up, not living it up.
Lying I have had people ask, “So am I lying to myself?” and I would say, most likely. Not because they are a lyer but because they only tell the truth as they can see it. There is no blame here. People can only see what they can only see at their level of consciousness. If their lens is looking at the world through one of fear, then the world will be a scary, unfair place.
Insecurity We lead a life of insecurity, of never knowing, nothing is settled, we are not rooted or comfortable in who we are or where we are so we are constantly playing other roles, putting on masks and guises, fitting in and pretending all is well, we fear the future because …. we just do not know. Insecurity also breeds fear – fear of what might happen if others were to know the truth.
Lack of self-expression We hold back, adopt the stiff upper lip, we pretend everything is alright, we are afraid to express our truth lest someone will judge or reject. But simply put – we are holding back because of our buy-in to what others might think and expect of us and in truth we have no way of really knowing what they may think or how they may react. Sometimes we may be proven right, sometimes not. Welcome to life.
Not being allowed to cry But who is stopping us? Who told us big boys should not cry? Or “girls always cry!” And were they right? And why? And how do we know that? Prune it back to the nothingness in what they say. Crying is a natural expression of so many things – grief, fear, anger, etc so we must give ourselves permission to feel, and then, if necessary, to cry. And if others don’t like it, then tough! That says more about them than you.
No balance of giving and receiving Sometimes we give and give, to others. But if anyone were to give to us, we don’t like it, we shun them away, we refuse and reject. To be healthy, we need to learn to receive. That is life, a process of giving and receiving.
The self-torture This is when our minds go round and round, ruminating, usually chastising us, blaming us for what we did, making us feel guilty. We need to find ways to stop it. It is NEVER healthy.
If any one bit of this applies then the question is – what are you going to do about it – continue with it, or change it, and if so, how? And do you have the heart to change it? For heart is central to all this. Heart is central to stroke. And your challenge is – knowing this, what will you now do?
Hope versus no hope
I have oft heard clients tell me that there is nothing they can do about having had a stroke or at least, there is little hope of getting their life back. I have also heard those with lifestyle risk factors say what is the point of living in such a way so as to prevent a stroke; one has to die of something! Not the mantra of “what’s the point.”
But depending on the severity of the stroke and the immobility it creates, there are things can be done to help heal (and a reminder, healing is not about curing!) and here you cold consider:-
The Sedona method Let go, follow your heart, not your head for it is your head, your thinking that may not have helped in the first place.
Create new habits – new ways of thinking, new tasks, new hobbies, new interests; new things to do all help give the brain a challenge to work for you, not just to atrophy and die.
Grow new neural pathways A big part of keeping your brain agile is forcing yourself to use areas of the brain you don’t normally activate. You can do this by taking on new challenges that push you to mental and physical exhaustion; this requires your brain to change the way it works. I accept there may be a limit to how much the brain can do. But this is the way in which new neurons are grown and strengthened to connect to existing pathways. Excellent challenges of this nature would be learning how to play a musical instrument or taking on a new language for the fun of it. Or just doing something new. How about finding a charity that you can help and volunteer to do something you would not normally do? Or enrol in an aqua-aerobics activity at your local pool.
Questions then become
What can I do that’s different?
How can I get more different thinking? This is not just about doing crosswords and puzzles. If you volunteered to be a receptionist with a local charity, you would have to think differently about many things...learn check-in systems, filing systems and so on. (You would also socialise, talk with people, and that would require the brain to think differently. It also takes the focus away from you and on to others.)
How can I get more exercise? Movement? Exercise is proven to get the brain thinking differently. Start small and build up. If hand mobility is initially restricted, perhaps start by getting a drawing book with mandalas and paint them in colours of your choice. Do more housework … even just a few minutes more each day. Join a dance class. Instead of going swimming alone, find out what aqua aerobics classes are on at your local pool. Can you drive out to new places and walk more, find a walking buddy for support, go to new places that inspire you so it’s not just about the walking? Notice, this is not just about exercise and movement but about doing something new.
What can I do that makes me use my brain differently? Computer games, buy a Sunday newspaper and tackle the myriad crosswords, Draw, use colouring books, spend some time gardening or create a simple window box. Does a neighbour have a calm pet you can house-sit?
How can I ensure I repeat new challenges? Where can you place reminders? Can you use an app on your mobile phone or computer? Can you have a friend phone to remind you?
What about my lifestyle? Adopt a healthy living, low-stress lifestyle. If you know what winds you up, avoid it wherever possible. The best way to develop new neural pathways and keep your brain in top shape is to take good care of your health. Stress, poor nutrition, processed foods, sugar, too little sleep, and the use of tobacco, drugs or alcohol will all be detrimental to your brain’s development. Doing what you’ve always done will ensure you’ll always get the same results and your brain will keep on using the same old pathways. That said, there is enough evidence around to suggest that a couple of units of alcohol every now and then can be quite conducive to destressing.
What can I do that will enhance my abilities in
decision-making ie not just giving in to the same old, but taking time to consider and making a decision which works on your own best interests
complex problem solving, giving yourself a challenge, not doing only what’s easy. As a leading supermarket says, every little helps.
memorising complex concepts, remembering is not the same as memorising, remembering is passive, memorising requires you to develop ways to remember, writing things down, looking at old photos to remember, keeping a diary, drawing your feelings
planning – even if it is just planning what to have for dinner, plan it, plan something different, don’t just go for what you normally cook - it forces you to develop new neural pathways
strategising – can you take on a project which requires you to work out how to get from A to Z and all the ways in between? A project for one client was simply working out what was on at the movies, then which date to go, then how to get there. Success was watching the movie.
self-reflection – every now and then take time out to sit and reflect on you, and how you are doing, focus on the positives, the progress you are making, then validate it, celebrate it. No matter how small the achievement to you, reward yourself. – all this is requiring you to build new neural pathways
channel energy from emotions ie divest your anger, uplift your depression, discover your passion and follow it as best you can, every emotion is giving a message; if you are depressed what would be its opposite (life is about balance) and what can you do to live the opposite. And your opposite of depression might be different to mine. It could be to shine, to feel happy, to think positively, to be uplifted, to be energised, to watch a feel-good movie. Then the question becomes – how can I create those opposites?
exercising self-control and willpower, being decisive, standing my ground, setting boundaries. If people are always trying to do things for you (for all the right reasons) if you feel you want to take back a bit of independence, tell people.
Stroke, as we’ve discovered, is when poor blood flow, however it is caused, to the brain results in cell death.
So we must keep the blood flowing into our cells. Thinking of mind, body, emotion, spirit ….
Negative thoughts stop the flow – so we need to think positive thoughts. Avoid judgement and negativity. Believe in yourself. Do not succumb to others beliefs about you.
Negative behaviours also stop our energy – so we need to get up and get moving. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly. A healthy and active lifestyle and a healthy weight help avoid a stroke. Find ways to keep the body moving – walking, dancing, skipping, swimming, golf, and even the gym.
Get moving, get fresh air. Being outside, particularly in sunshine, ensures a supply of Vitamin D. Regular daily movement —preferably outside for the added feel-good effects of the great outdoors—is key to reducing blood sugar, lowering weight, reducing stress, and lowering cortisol levels. A gentle form of exercise is Qi-Gong.
Get regular, quality sleep. Gen up on getting quality sleep. If you snore or suspect you have sleep apnea, get it treated because sleep apnea means less oxygen delivered to the brain during sleep—a critical time for many of the brain's functions. Sleep hygiene is important, so try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times each night and morning.
Negative beliefs can hold us back – so we need to challenge and root out our negative thinking and believing.
Negative spirituality – if we have a negative attitude to the Source of All Life, then that Source finds it difficult to work in and through us as we have put up a block. Meditation helps being open (and help on many other health levels.) Being open helps. It’s not about religion, necessarily.
Spirituality. Traditionally being spiritual signified having an attachment to religious values, or matters of the spirit, rather than material or worldly interests. But in the last sixty years or so it has also come to mean aspiring to and living by higher levels of consciousness, primarily Love without conditions, perhaps using meditation, yoga and similar practices.
I consider spirituality to be a state in which we are connected to God, not in a religious sense but however we each define that word, eg Higher Power, the Divine, Source, Nature, experiencing the inter-connectedness of all sentient beings, connected to each other, and the deepest part of ourselves. Being of service.
Begin meditating - it is not as difficult as you might imagine and it has countless benefits.
Learn mindfulness meditation.
Stress stops healthy living. Identify stress in your life and deal with it or better still, let it go. And that includes wherever possible, ridding yourself of negative, energy drainers in your life.
Nutrition is crucial. If we are to create the right circumstances for our brain to grow, we need to feed the body accordingly. Specifically, with regard to healthy brain functioning, too much sugar deadens the brain so reduce your sugar intake, which means also avoid carbs, breads, pastas, cookies, chocolates, and fizzy drinks. Stick to a diet high in fibre from appropriate vegetables (research on line www.dietdoctor.com) proper fat, and no more processed foods – only fresh food and to include oily fish.
Eat fresh produce – not processed. Aim for a predominantly plant-based diet. Most vitamins, nutrients, and essential compounds that are found in plant-based foods help to lower blood pressure, improve glucose control, reduce inflammation, and help in weight loss. Try to minimise or eliminate pro-inflammatory animal products. Opt for baked, boiled, grilled, broiled, or roasted foods instead of those that are fried.
Start the day with a juice. Start each morning with a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant smoothie that includes fresh turmeric, ginger, along with green vegetables and perhaps one small piece of fruit. (Too much fruit ups the sugar level.)
Supplement to fight inflammation. Herbal formulations are great for preventive purposes. Boswellia lowers brain inflammation and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant that will work to scoop up those inflammation-causing free radicals. Meadowsweet and white willow bark are natural sources of salicylate acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Important: If your risk factors are great enough that you need aspirin, these herbs are not a substitute.
Avoid alcohol as a regular thing; it does not help the gut microbiome and aggravates inflammatory markers. But a little, every now and then, can help.
Kick the habit of smoking. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a stroke as non-smokers. Cigarette smoking is harmful because it reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and causes a build up of debris on the inside of blood vessels as the smoke contains nicotine and carbon monoxide. Blood clots form more easily and stems blood flow to the brain. If you stop smoking, your risk of developing heart disease or stroke tends to decrease.
Stay away from processed meats. Higher intake of processed food increases weight gain and helps in the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. As a result, it raises the risk of ischemic stroke. Furthermore, processed meats such as low-fat deli turkey, bacon, ham, sausages, salami, etc. are high in sodium, which in turn, is associated with high blood pressure. The preservatives (ie chemicals) used in these foods also tend to damage the blood vessels.
Give acupuncture a try. Studies have demonstrated the positive effects on cerebral blood flow with particular head acupoints. If the thought of needles is too much, consider acupressure, or EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to aid relaxation.
“Beliefs are choices.
First you choose your beliefs.
Then your beliefs affect your choices.”
Roy T. Bennett