How Much Do You Know About Strokes?
A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition which is the 5th leading cause of death in America and the 3rd leading cause of death in Texas.
This death rate doesn’t have to be so high. According to the National Stroke Association, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Stroke Awareness Month serves to inform people about what causes stroke, preventing strokes, and how to know warning signs and symptoms of stroke.
Prevention and early treatment leads to better stroke outcomes.
How Blood Flow Affects Strokes
When blood flow stops to an area of the brain, it is called a “brain attack” or stroke. Brain cells begin to die quickly when there isn’t enough oxygen. The area of the brain in which the stroke occurs determines what happens to the body.
For instance, if there is a stroke in an area responsible for muscle control, a person may be unable to use their arm or leg on one side of the body.
Blood flow interruption to the brain happens in one of two ways: an aneurysm (hemorrhagic stroke) or blood clot (ischemic stroke).
This is the least common type of stroke but is the most fatal. This is when an existing brain aneurysm bursts or a blood vessel weakens, causing a leak.
This occurs when a clot becomes lodged in a blood vessel, blocking the flow of blood carrying oxygen to brain cells.
What Causes Stroke
Stroke risk increases based on genetic and environmental factors. Be aware of the following modifiable risk factors (areas that can be treated medically or personally modified) to assess your personal risk factors for this life-threatening condition.
- High Blood Pressure
- Diet & Lack of Physical Activity
- High Blood Cholesterol
- Carotid Artery Disease
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Heart Disease
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Family history of stroke, age and gender are considered non-modifiable risk factors as are certain genetic conditions such as sickle cell anemia. One in five (20-21%) of women between 55-75 years of age are more likely to have stroke than men in the same age range. Knowing these risk factors is important so you can make healthy lifestyle choices in an effort to prevent any of the other issues in the previous list.
Those who identify with one or more of these risk factors should be aware they are at a higher risk of suffering from a stroke. This medical condition is highly preventable, and lifestyle changes should be implemented to reduce the risk.
How to Prevent Stroke
Leading a healthy, active lifestyle is the best way to prevent a stroke. Those who suffer from existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol should seek treatment from a physician. In addition, overweight or obese individuals can reduce daily caloric intake to 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day while increasing physical activity. Add low or high intensity exercises into your routines such as walking, riding a bike, or golfing. Exercising 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of stroke significantly.
Consume alcohol in moderation and eliminate illicit drug use altogether.
Before starting a diet and/or new exercise regimen, discuss your family history and risk factors for stroke with your primary care physician. He or she will be able to advise you on additional ways you can help prevent this serious medical condition.
Signs of a Stroke
Symptoms of stroke come on suddenly. Remembering these signs of stroke could save your life or that of a loved one:
- Numbness or weakness usually on one side of the face, arm or leg.
- Confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding people or surroundings.
- Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
- Having trouble walking, feeling dizzy, or suffering from a loss of balance or coordination.
- Suddenly suffering a severe headache.
Remember F-A-S-T when assessing a loved one for stroke.
F – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Ask the person to repeat something simple. Do they sound strange or is their speech slurred?
T –TIME to call 9-1-1 and look at a clock to mark the time in which symptoms were first noticed.
If you or someone you know suffers from any of these signs, act FAST. Call 9-1-1 immediately. Please, never drive yourself or continue driving if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Share this information with everyone you know. Stroke doesn’t have to be one of the leading causes of death in America. Raising awareness can save lives.