According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability in the U.S. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age. It is estimated that one stroke will occur every 40 seconds. It is important to know your risk.A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In either case, parts of the brain become damaged or die.
There are two types of stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when blood clots or other particles block the blood vessels to the brain. Fatty deposits called plaque can also cause blockages by building up in the blood vessels. The second type, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts in the brain. Blood accumulates and compresses the surrounding brain tissue.
Stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If any of these symptoms occur, call 9-1-1 immediately. It is important to note the time when the symptoms first appeared. An FDA approved clot-buster medication called Activase® can be used for treatment to reduce long-term disability for a common stroke if it is within three hours of the start of the symptoms. This medication is also known as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). tPA is an enzyme found naturally in the body that converts, or activates, plasminogen into another enzyme to dissolve a blood clot. It may also be used in an IV to speed up the dissolving of a clot.
Know the Signs of a Stroke
Identifying stroke symptoms can be easily remembered with the acronym FAST:
F: Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A: Arms. Ask the person to raise their arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S: Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T: Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Several conditions and certain lifestyle choices can put people at higher risk for stroke. The most important risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease or atrial fibrillation (AFib)
- Cigarette smoking
- Prior stroke
Everyone can take steps to lower their risk for stroke including:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol use
- Prevent or treat high cholesterol
- Prevent or treat high blood pressure
- Prevent or treat diabetes
Talk with your doctor about the best ways to lower your risk for stroke. If you suffer from AFib and take blood thinners (anticoagulants), Baptist Health offers the WATCHMAN device procedure to help many high risk patients who are unsuitable for long-term anticoagulants reduce their risk of stroke. Good candidates for this procedure are those who have:
- History of bleeding (eg. Intracerebral, subdural, GI, retro-peritoneal)
- Poor compliance with having INR checked regularly
- Inability or significant difficulty with maintaining a therapeutic INR range
- Cannot tolerate oral anticoagulation
- High risk of recurrent falls
- Severe renal failure
- Occupation/lifestyle-related high bleeding risk
- Need for prolonged dual antiplatelet therapy
- Increased bleeding risk
- Other situations for which anticoagulation is inappropriate
Learn Your Stroke Risk
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Strokes are the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Take our stroke risk assessment to estimate your personal risk of having a stroke, and identify your stroke risk factors and how to improve them.