Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the country. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it causes more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease.
There are new treatments that greatly reduce the damage caused by stroke but that treatment needs to be administered – fast. The window of opportunity to start treating stroke patients is three hours. But a person needs to be at the hospital within 60 minutes of having stroke to be evaluated and receive treatment. The sooner the patient arrives at the hospital, the better chance they have at preventing disability. That is why it’s important for people of all ages to know stroke warning signs and what to do in case of this emergency.
A stroke is often referred to as a “brain attack”. It occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped – due to a blockage by a clot. The brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function.
There are two kinds of stroke. The most common kind of stroke, called ischemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. The other kind of stroke, called hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain.
The most common symptoms are:
– Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
– Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
– Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
– Sudden severe headache with no known cause
– Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Remember, the person suffering a stroke may not realize it’s happening to them or they may not be able to tell you that they need help.
So it’s important that you recognize the symptoms and know to call 911 – immediately.
While majority of stroke victims are over the age of 65, a quarter of patients are younger. For African Americans, stroke is more common and more deadly, even in young and middle-aged adults. And while family history does play a role in your risk, there are many risk factors you can control.
– If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to get it under control. Many people do not realize they have high blood pressure, which usually produces no symptoms but is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Managing your high blood pressure is the most important thing you can do to avoid stroke.
– If you smoke, quit.
– If you have diabetes, learn how to manage it. As with high blood pressure, diabetes usually causes no symptoms but it increases the chance of stroke.
– If you are overweight, start maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors for having a stroke. Remember to check with him or her before taking any treatment or medical remedy.