May is American Stroke Awareness Month.Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in America; but according to the National Stroke Association, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Here's all you need to know about stroke, from symptoms to solutions.
What causes stroke?
Some strokes originate in the brain while others are caused by clots or plaque that travels from the heart or arteries to the brain. When a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or bursts, oxygen and nutrients can't get to the brain. As a result, brain cells begin to die and malfunction. A stroke caused by a blocked artery is called an ischemic stroke. If the plaque or clot dissolves naturally and the brain is fully restored to its normal function, it's called a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke.
In some cases, blood clots or plaque creates enough pressure that a blood vessel in the brain actually bursts, causing blood to seep into the brain: this is called a hemorrhagic stroke. Conditions that weaken blood vessels, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, can increase the risk of this type of stroke.
What are the consequences of stroke?
Depending on which part of the brain is affected, the long-term effects of stroke can vary considerably in type and severity. You may lose the ability to walk, perform physical functions or move a certain part of your body. A stroke can also affect cognitive function, such as your ability to understand language or think clearly. Finally, sense perceptions and your ability to experience emotion can also be impacted by stroke.
Signs of stroke
Numbness, weakness, slurred speech, and loss of vision are the major warning signs of stroke. These symptoms may occur in the face, arm or leg, and are usually confined to one side of the body. The acronym F. A. S. T. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to call 911) is an easy way to remember the warning signs and how to respond to stroke.
If someone is having a stroke
The best thing you can do if you suspect stroke is to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. If these symptoms arise and then disappear, it is equally important to seek help; a mini-stroke often signals a major stroke ahead. If possible, take note of the time the stroke symptoms began, because some treatments must be given with a certain time period following a stroke.
Prevention is key
There are many things you can do to decrease your risk of stroke. Lowering your blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy are critical to preventing stroke and many other dangerous health conditions. Basic health-promoting habits like eating healthy and getting regular exercise help, too. If you're diabetic, it's important to adhere to a treatment regimen and keep your blood sugar under control. Finally, smoking cigarettes and using too much alcohol significantly increase the potential of a stroke. Talk to your doctor to determine your personal risk factors, and begin taking steps to combat stroke today.
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