According to the American Stroke Association, strokes are the leading cause of disability in America and the number five killer. Those over age 65 are at the greatest risk. But the good news is that a majority of the risk factors that can lead to stroke can be controlled. Here’s what you need to know to prevent stroke and to recognize the symptoms.
How a Stroke Happens
A stroke happens when the blood supply to the brain is reduced or interrupted and brain cells begin to die. The blood supply gets interrupted if a clot in a blood vessel blocks the passage of blood or a blood vessel bursts and cannot transport blood to the brain.
If a clot blocks the passage of blood, it’s called an ischemic stroke. When a blood vessel ruptures, it’s called a hemorrhagic stroke. If a temporary clot causes the stroke but blood flow returns on its own, that is called a transient ischemic attack or mini stroke.
Recognizing the Signs of a Stroke
A stroke is a medical emergency. Fast treatment can prevent further brain damage. If you recognize these signs in yourself for a friend, get medical help immediately.
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg especially on one side of the body. The loss of sensation and voluntary movement may be complete or partial and accompanied by a tingling feeling or drooling.
- Difficulty talking, loss of speech, sudden confusion and trouble articulating words.
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes or sudden vision loss.
- Trouble walking, loss of coordination and balance, and dizziness.
- Sudden severe headache without any other known cause.
If you think you or someone you know is having a stroke, remember to act FAST and do this simple assessment:
- F is for FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- A is for Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- S is for Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
- T is for Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.
Could You Be At Risk for Stroke?
The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade between the ages of 55 and 85. A family history of stroke or high blood pressure and diabetes can also increase your risk.
But there are other risk factors that you can control to lessen your chances of having a stroke. Those include:
- High blood pressure: Know your numbers, work to keep them low and if you take medicine for high blood pressure, make sure to take it as directed.
- Smoking: Smoking tobacco products can double your risk for stroke. Quit the habit.
- Diabetes: Monitor your sugar and any diabetes medicine as directed.
- Diet: What you eat has a direct effect on your stroke risk. Fatty foods raise your cholesterol level, salty foods increase blood pressure and high-calorie diets lead to obesity – all of which contribute to stroke. Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day and you can reduce your risk.
- Exercise: Lack of exercise can contribute to your risk of stroke. Move more and sit less to help lower blood pressure and increase health.
We’re never too old to make positive changes. Take a proactive approach to wellness now to increase your quality of life and lower the risk for a stroke.
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