A stroke cuts off blood flow to your brain and can cause brain damage and death. Stroke is a leading cause of death and a major cause of disability for American adults. Every year around 800,000 Americans have a stroke. And every four minutes, someone dies from a stroke. We know several important things about stroke. First, a significant majority of strokes are preventable. We can stop them with lifestyle changes and routine medical care. Second, every minute counts. Fast action can reduce damage to the brain, so it’s essential to recognize the warning signs and take immediate action.
What Is A Stroke?
A stroke is a medical event that interrupts the blood supply to the brain. It can cause brain damage or death if not treated right away. There are three main types of stroke:
- 87 percent of strokes are Ischemic strokes, according to the CDC. Ischemic strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is blocked, often by a blood clot.
- A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures, causing damage to brain cells. Hemorrhagic strokes can be caused by high blood pressure or aneurysms.
- A transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked temporarily (for less than 5 minutes). A TIA is a warning sign for future strokes and is a medical emergency that requires immediate care.
What Are The Warning Signs of a Stroke?
According to the CDC, warning signs of a stroke include:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
What Should I Do If Someone Has Stroke Symptoms?
If you think someone is having a stroke, time is of the essence. The rule of thumb for stroke response is Act FAST:
- Face: ask the person to smile and check if one side of the face droops.
- Arms: ask the person to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward.
- Speech: ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and check for slurred or strange speech.
- Time: if you notice any of these signs, call 911 right away.
You should also note the time at which symptoms occurred. It may help healthcare providers determine the best course of treatment.
What Should I Do If I Think I’m Having A Stroke?
Don’t second guess yourself if you think you might be having a stroke. Call 911 right away and note when your symptoms began if you can. Follow the FAST protocol listed above. Remember, every minute without blood flow kills brain cells, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. Don’t wait to see if your symptoms subside. If you get to the emergency room within a few hours of your stroke, new clot-destroying drugs can help save your life and preserve brain function.
What Are The Risk Factors For Stroke?
Risk factors for stroke include age and sex, along with chronic medical conditions and lifestyle choices. Some of the most significant include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Using tobacco products
- Consuming too much alcohol
Sex and ethnicity also play a role. Stroke is a leading cause of death in American men, with African American and Hispanic men at higher risk. Women are at lower risk of stroke than men, but it’s still the third leading cause of death in women. African American and Hispanic women are at higher risk of stroke.
How Can I Prevent A Stroke?
The CDC confirms that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. There are many ways you can work with your primary care provider to prevent stroke.
- Manage your health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise and eat a healthy diet.
- Don’t smoke and avoid tobacco products.
- Limit alcohol use.
- See your primary care provider regularly for routine care.
Your Primary Care Provider Is Your Partner In Preventing Strokes
Regular checkups with your primary care provider are one of the best ways to prevent a stroke. Yearly well visits can help identify diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure early. Early detection enables you to manage chronic conditions before they put your life and health at risk. At Comprehensive Primary Care, prevention and wellness programs are at the heart of what we do. We offer a medically supervised weight loss program often covered by insurance. We have an excellent staff dietician who can help with nutrition. Weight loss, great nutrition and exercise have so many health benefits–and preventing a stroke is at the top of the list.