What is a Stroke?
A stroke happens when a blood vessel leading to the brain either becomes blocked or it bursts. When this happens, the brain cells begin to die. Patients need to be treated quickly or they can die or become seriously disabled.
Symptoms of a Stroke
If you suspect that you or someone you know is having a stroke, here is a quick way to check. Ask the person to smile, speak or raise their hands above their head. If their smile is uneven, their words or slurred, or they cannot raise both hands above their head, call an ambulance or rush them to the hospital immediately.
Other symptoms include trouble walking, difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said to them, paralysis or numbness in the face, leg or arm, trouble seeing in either one or both of your eyes, or a severe headache, often with dizziness or vomiting.
Treatment for Strokes
If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, it is important that you get to the hospital quickly. If you arrive in time, they will administer a clot-busting intravenous medication called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). It is essential that this drug be given within three hours after the symptoms of a stroke first become visible. When tPA is given quickly enough, one out of three patients will see major improvement and, in come cases, the symptoms are completely eliminated.
Unfortunately, only about 10% of patients receive tPA because they arrive to late for it to help, or because they are on blood thinners or they have had recent surgery. In those cases, a device may be inserted into an artery in the groin and snaked up to the brain in order to remove a clot or stop the bleeding in the brain.
A stroke kills about 2 million brain cells a minute, so it is extremely important that action is taken quickly..
How to Prevent a Stroke
Once you understand the risks of a stroke, you can easily understand how important it is to do everything you can to protect yourself. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing a stroke:
Keep your blood pressure under control. Take medication, if necessary.
Keep your cholesterol levels low. Use medication if you cannot lower it through food and exercise.
If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, manage your blood sugar levels carefully.
If you are overweight, lose as much of it as possible. This will also make it easier to deal with your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
Get exercise. It will help with your weight. In addition, physical inactivity is considered a risk factor for strokes.
Limit your consumption of alcohol. No more than two modest sized alcoholic drinks a day for men, and no more than one for women.
DO NOT SMOKE. There is a high correlation between smoking and your risk of stroke.
Atrial fibrillation ... if you have a heart rhythm disorder, work with your doctor to come up with a strategy to treat it.
More Risk Factors
Your risk of having a stroke doubles EVERY TEN YEARS after the age of 55.
African-Americans are at a higher risk
You have an increased risk if you have is a family history of strokes or if you have ever had a stroke or heart attack.
"Saddleback Adds Advanced Stroke Care," Laguna Woods Globe, Orange County Register, November 21, 2013.
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