Stroke Awareness for All Ages
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease, cancer, COVID-19, and accidents. It is also the leading cause of adult disability. Although more strokes occur in the elderly, stroke awareness is necessary for all ages since strokes can also be a major cause of disability and death among middle-aged people.
Causes of stroke
Strokes occur when something interferes with the normal flow of blood to the central nervous system.
- Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots or cholesterol plaques that block the flow of blood through arteries.
- Hemorrhages occur when arteries burst (rupture) inside of, or on, the brain surface.
When a stroke occurs blood flow is interrupted, the brain doesn't get the oxygen and nutrients it needs, and cells begin to die. Relatively few brain cells will be affected if the interruption is brief, and the person may recover fully from their stroke. Otherwise, the damage may vary in the degree of severity and can be permanent.
The part of the brain that's damaged depends on the location of the stroke. Areas commonly affected by a stroke include those that involve sensory perceptions, movement, memory, thought patterns, or behavior, and the ability to talk or understand speech.
Stroke treatment for patients includes medication, surgery, hospital care, and rehabilitation. If someone with a stroke goes to the hospital early enough (4.5-hour treatment window from onset of symptoms), clot-dissolving medication--called a thrombolytic, such as Tenecteplase (TNKase),--can be given. The eligibility window for potential surgery to retrieve the clot called a thrombectomy is within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Time is brain - if stroke is suspected, seek medical attention immediately and call 9-1-1.
Warning signs of a stroke
Anyone having a stroke should seek medical attention immediately. These are warning signs of stroke:
- B -Balance, watch for sudden loss of balance or unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls, especially combined with any other symptom
- E - Eyes, Check for sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in only one eye
- F - Face, watch for sudden weakness or numbness of one side of the face, look for uneven smile or facial drooping
- A - Arm, look for sudden one-sided weakness or numbness in arm or leg
- S - Speech, listen for slurred speech or inability to speak or understand speech
- T- Time, Call 9-1-1 immediately!
Reducing your stroke risk - 80% of strokes are preventable
Strokes can happen to anyone. You may reduce your stroke risk by taking the following actions:
- Control your blood pressure- High blood pressure (over 140/90) is the leading risk factor for stroke and also the #1 preventable cause of stroke
- Don't smoke- Chemicals in tobacco raise your blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen your blood carries to your brain, make blood thicker and stickier, and promote clotting.
- Control your cholesterol- High LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels damage your arteries and promote the formation of plaque.
- Maintain a healthy weight- Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure.
- Be physically active- Getting regular aerobic exercise helps overall cardiovascular health. Aim for being active at least 150 minutes per week.
- Eat a balanced diet- including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Some fad diets may be unhealthy if they promote too much fat or salt.
- Control diabetes- People with the disease are more likely to have strokes.
- Take little strokes seriously- A small clot will sometimes clog an artery briefly, causing temporary weakness, dizziness, or other symptoms. These transient ischemic attacks (TIA) often precede a major stroke.
- Follow your healthcare provider's advice- for treatment of heart disease, including coronary artery blockage and abnormal rhythms like atrial fibrillation.
- Find out from your healthcare provider if you need to have your carotid arteries--the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain--checked for blockage.