Strokes take the lives of nearly 140,000 Americans every year. While a stroke mostly affects adults over the age of 65, the risk for younger people is increasing. Even though the risk of death as a result of a stroke is high, addressing a stroke within 24 hours can prevent fatal or life-altering problems from occurring. Taking care of your overall health before a stroke strikes is the best way to protect your life. May is Stroke Awareness Month—31 days dedicated to educating you about the risks, signs, and preventative steps for a stroke.
What Is a Stroke?
Strokes occur when there are blockages in brain arteries. In this case, blood clots travel from the neck or heart into the brain, which prevents blood flow to a certain part of the brain. High cholesterol, high blood sugar, or high blood pressure that is not under control can also lead to brain hemorrhages. A lack of blood flow causes oxygen to be cut off from brain cells and they begin to die.
How a person is affected by the stroke depends on the location of the stroke and the amount of brain cells that are damaged. A major stroke can cause death, but those who survive may have varying disabilities. Damaged brain cells can affect memory and muscle control. In minor cases, the person may experience temporary weakness in one of their limbs. Larger strokes can cause permanent paralysis, an inability to speak, or memory loss. Over two-thirds of those who survive a stroke will experience some form of disability.
What are the Signs of a Stroke?
You can tell if someone is having a stroke by using the acronym F.A.S.T. Look at the person who may be having a stroke and check for these signs:
- F - Face Drooping: If you notice one side of their face is drooping or they mention that one side is numb, ask them to smile. If their smile is lopsided, they may be having a stroke.
- A - Arm Weakness: If one arm is weak or numb, ask them to raise both of their arms. If one arm drifts downward, this is a sign of a stroke.
- S - Speech: If their speech is slurred, they are unable to speak, or you cannot understand them, ask them to repeat a simple sentence. If they are unable to do so, move quickly to the next step.
- T - Time to Call 9-1-1: If you notice any of these symptoms in a person, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1. Even if the symptoms go away, you need to get them to a hospital immediately.
The sooner a person can get to a hospital that is equipped to care for stroke emergencies, the greater their chance of survival. Identifying and removing a blood clot quickly can even prevent long-term disability. Know the signs of a stroke and be ready to act fast—your loved one’s life depends on it.
What are the Risk Factors?
Age is one of the biggest risk factors of a stroke. People over the age of 55 have an increased risk, and that risk grows with each passing decade. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes increase your risk of a stroke significantly. Strokes that occur in adults under 50 years of age can be caused by blood that is too thick, ruptured blood vessels, certain genetic disorders, heart defects, or drugs. Everyone who adopts a sedentary lifestyle, eats poorly, drinks too much alcohol, or uses tobacco products is also at risk for a stroke.
Can I Prevent a Stroke?
By managing your weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet, you will take large strides toward reducing your risk of stroke. Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Be diligent if you take medication, or are given recommendations by our physician, to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol. Learn how to keep your diabetes under control and take your overall health seriously in order to decrease your risk for stroke. If you have questions about your risk of stroke, make an appointment at TrustCare Heart Clinic today.