Strike Out Stroke

Computer generated image of brain experiencing a stroke.

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Every forty seconds, one person in the United States suffers from a stroke. What’s more, stroke is a a leading cause of death in the United States. That’s why it is important to educate yourself on its causes and symptoms and what preventive measures you can take to avoid suffering from one this May, National Stroke Awareness month.

A stroke is caused when blood flow is constricted to the brain. There are two types of stroke, Ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic stroke occurs when arteries, which are the blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood from your heart to all of your body’s cells and are part of your circulatory (cardiovascular) system and play a crucial role in distributing oxygen, nutrients and hormones throughout your body, are blocked by blood clots or by the gradual build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits, resulting in the reduction of blood flow to the brain. The vast majority of strokes are ischemic.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks, leaking blood into the brain. The risk of death is higher in hemorrhagic strokes, however this type of stroke is only responsible for eight to fifteen percent of strokes in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

There is also something called a mini stroke AKA transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is a stroke-like occurrence that only lasts for a few minutes and usually causes no permanent damage. Symptoms of TIA are similar to those of a stroke and can include numbness or paralysis in the face, arm, or leg; slurred speech; difficulty understanding people; and dizziness or loss of balance.

There are many contributing factors that are related to having a stroke. Treatable factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, sleep apnea, the use of birth control pills and cigarette smoke. Many of these factors can be reduced through lifestyle changes or managed through the use of proper medication. There are also some genetics-based factors that may put people at risk. These include people who have a family history of heart disease or stroke, African-Americans and males. Age also plays a role. While many studies have shown that the risk of stroke increases as we age, according to a 2019 study by the American Heart Association (AHA) based on 29 years of data from the Global Disease Burden, the incidence of stroke is declining in people ages 75 and older, yet increasing among younger and middle-aged adults (younger than 49) in certain geographic regions, particularly those who live in the South and Midwest regions of the U.S.

To reduce your chances of suffering from a stroke, start by changing some lifestyle habits. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure range, living smoke-free (quit smoking!), understanding cholesterol risks, controlling diabetes, and managing an exercise and diet program are all ways that you can lower your risk of suffering from stroke.

Many people survive strokes, but often not without consequences. There are certain side effects that can take place which can decrease the quality of life for a person. Some of the side effects may include:

  • Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body
  • Problems with awareness or thinking
  • Numbness
  • Depression
  • Pain in hands and feet

If you or someone you know has experienced these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention. In the event that the incident is a TIA and not a stroke, an evaluation is still needed to take preventative measures minimize the risk of a stroke in the future.

If you believe that someone is suffering from a stroke, but need to confirm the symptoms, you can utilize the FAST method. FAST stands for:

Face – Ask the person to smile to see if one side of the face droops.

Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms and look to see if one side falls downward.

Speech – Check for slurred speech by asking the person to repeat a series of words or a sentence.

Time – If the person shows the above symptoms, act quickly and call 911 immediately.

For more information about stroke and the signs of symptoms of strokes, please visit www.cdc.gov, www.stroke.org, or www.mayoclinic.com.

This information is for educational purposes. Please consult your physician regarding any medical issues. The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) is committed to bringing trusted and quality home health, private care and hospice to Indian River County patients. For more information about VNA services, call 772-567-5551 or visit www.vnatc.com.

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