Symptoms / Prevention
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and the number one cause of adult disability in the United States. While 795,000 Americans will have a stroke this year, nearly 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Brain cells lacking the proper amount of blood flow begin to die within minutes. It takes only 12 minutes for a pea-sized area of brain to die from the onset of a stroke. Treatment is available. DO NOT WAIT.
A stroke or brain attack occurs when there is a sudden interruption of blood supply to the brain. When this happens, the part of the brain that does not receive the flow of blood with the oxygen and nutrients it needs starts to die. Stroke is also called a brain attack because of its sudden onset. Like a heart attack, brain attack requires emergency response and treatment.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the signs and symptoms of stroke (see Symptoms and Prevention), call 911 immediately.
Brain attack is the most preventable medical catastrophe. The best way to prevent a brain attack is to reduce the risk factors that could cause it. Medical care and lifestyle changes can mitigate the following risk factors:
Treatable stroke risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke. Blood pressure should be below 140/90 mm Hg.
- High Cholesterol – Your total cholesterol should be less than 200. Your LDL (the bad cholesterol) should be less than 130.
- Diabetes Mellitus – fasting blood sugars should be between 90-130. Hba1c should be less than 6.5.
- Smoking – smokers have 2 to 4 times the stroke risk of nonsmokers or those who quit more than 10 years ago.
- Sedentary Lifestyle –moderate to vigorous physical activity 3-5 times a week may reduce ischemic stroke risk 35%.
- Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that can increase risk of stroke up to 5 times.
Not all risk factors can be changed. Non-treatable risk factors include:
- Having a first degree relative with stroke increases your stroke risk.
- Being over the age of 65 increases stroke risk.
- African- Americans have nearly twice the risk for stroke than white people
Know the Warning Signs
One in three Americans can’t name a sign of stroke. Knowing the signs of stroke could save your loved ones. In two third of stroke patients someone other than the patient makes the decision to seek treatment.
- There is an easy way to remember the most common stroke signs: FAST!
- Face – one side of the face droops down or a smile is crooked
- Arm – unable to lift an arm or keep an arm up without it drifting down
- Speech- Slurred speech or inability to correctly repeat a simple phrase
- Time – Time to call 911!
- Other stroke signs are
- Sudden numbness on one side of the body
- Sudden dizziness
- Sudden loss of vision in one eye
- Sudden loss of one half of vision
- Sudden double vision
- Sudden dizziness
- Sudden severe headache
Seek medical attention even if these signs go away. A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is when someone has a blockage of blood flow to part of the brain for a short period of time. It causes stroke signs that go away when blood flow returns to the brain
- 15% of strokes are preceded by a TIA.
- The same risks that cause TIAs, cause strokes.
If you experience one or more of these signs, call 911 immediately. The faster you get treatment, the greater your chance for a full recovery.
Give Me 5 - Tool for Recognizing a Stroke
- WALK - Is their balance off?
- TALK - Is their speech or face droopy?
- REACH - Is one side weak or numb?
- SEE - Is their vision all or partly affected?
- FEEL - Is their headache severe?