More than 795,000 Americans have a stroke each year; that’s one every 40 seconds. i
And every 4 minutes, someone has a stroke and dies. ii
A stroke is a medical emergency, and getting treatment quickly is crucial.
Knowing the signs and understanding what to do can reduce brain damage and other complications.
What is a Stroke? iii iv
A stroke is like a heart attack for your brain and also called an infarction.
When blood flow is blocked to a part of the brain, those brain cells starve, causing cell death and permanent damage.
Depending on the location and extent of the damage, symptoms could be temporary or permanent.
There are different types of strokes:
|An Ischemic Stroke occurs when plaque builds upon the walls of an artery in the brain narrowing blood flow.|
A small blood clot gets stuck in this narrow space blocking off the flow.
|Hemorrhagic Strokes hit when a weakened artery wall breaks, and blood leaks into your brain.|
The interruption of blood to your brain cells causes damage.
Other than genetics, high blood pressure can wear down the lining of these vessels, increasing the risk for stroke.
|A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is basically a traveling blood clot.|
It’s caused by a small clot that gets stuck briefly blocking flow and moves on.
This short interruption in blood flow is known as a mini-stroke, and symptoms may last from a few minutes to less than an hour.
TIAs are warning signs of a future more severe stroke.
Brain Stem Strokes take place in the brain stem and can affect both sides of your body.
It can leave the person in a “locked-in” state unable to speak or move below the neck.
A Posterior Circulation Stroke happens at the back of the brain, by a blockage or rupture of a vessel.
Symptoms of this type of stroke differ than at the front of the brain, including:
- Dizziness called Vertigo, like when the room is spinning.
- Loss of balance
- One-sided arm or leg weakness
- Slurred speech
- Double vision or other vision problems
- Strong headache
- Sudden nausea and or vomiting
Other Causes are rarer and include a tumor, infection, or swelling in the brain due to an injury or illness.
But doctors know that getting aid and early treatment makes an enormous difference to recovery.
Recognize the Symptoms of a Stroke
Use the letters in “F.A.S.T.” to spot stroke signs for yourself or someone else, and know when to call 9-1-1.
Does one side of the face droop, or is it numb?
Ask the person to smile.
Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?
Is one arm weak or numb?
Ask the person to raise both arms.
Does one arm drift downward?
Is speech slurred?
Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand?
Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
|Time to Call 9-1-1|
If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.
Other Signs & Symptoms v
- Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes
- Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause
The faster you get treatment, the better your recovery outcome, so don’t hesitate, CALL 9-1-1, if you notice any of these signs.
7 Tips to Reduce Your Risk for Stroke vi
Here are 7 ways you can help lower your risk of having a stroke:
- Lower Blood Pressure
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can 2x or even 4x your risk of stroke.
Support your vascular health with medication (if necessary), nutrient supplements, and:
- Reduce salt intake to no more than 1500mg a day (about half a teaspoon)
- Eat 4-5 servings of fruit and veggies daily
- Include a serving of fish 2-3 times a week
- Add a few servings of whole grains and dairy daily
- Don’t smoke
- Lose Excess Weight
Carrying excess weight is linked to diabetes and high blood pressure and raises your risk for stroke.
Even a 10-pound loss can make a difference.
- Exercise and Stay Active
Staying active and regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your risk of stroke.
- Limit Alcohol
Studies show that one drink per day may lower the odds for stroke, but more than two drinks a day sharply raises the risk.
- Medication for Atrial Fibrillation
When clots form in the heart and cause an irregular heartbeat rhythm, it’s called Atrial Fibrillation.
These clots can travel to the brain, causing a stroke.
This condition can 5x your risk for having a stroke, so if you have AF, you may need a blood thinner to help treat it and prevent damage to your brain.
- Treat High Blood Sugar and Diabetes
Having high blood sugar long term can damage blood vessels.
Clots can get trapped in these damaged areas.
When those clots break free, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Keeping your blood sugar balanced with medication and/or other supplements is the best prevention.
- Quit Smoking
Did you know that smoking thickens your blood?
It also increases the plaque build-up in your arteries.
Following these 7 tips can significantly help you reduce your risk of stroke, and improve your overall health, well-being, and quality of life, especially as you age.