It’s estimated that a stroke occurs every 40 seconds in the United States and that someone dies from a stroke every 4 minutes. Given these surprising statistics, we need to make everyone aware of the toll that stroke takes on millions of lives each year. In recognition of National Stroke Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at the causes of stroke, the signs and symptoms you need to be aware of, and the actions you can take to prevent a stroke from happening.
What Causes a Stroke?
To gain a better understanding of stroke, let’s first discuss the brain. Your brain functions as the control center for all the parts of your body. In order for your brain to function properly, it depends on oxygen and nutrients from a constant flow of blood. An ischemic stroke occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain is interrupted or reduced. As a result, your brain does not receive enough oxygen, and vital cells and tissues start to die. Once these cells die or become damaged, the parts of your body that the brain controls stop working properly, causing you to experience symptoms of a stroke.
Approximately 85% of ischemic stroke occurs when the flow of blood is interrupted by a clogged blood vessel in or leading to the brain. Ischemic strokes can also occur when these arteries are damaged by high blood pressure, high cholesterol or atherosclerosis with narrowing leading to thrombosis.
Stroke Symptoms to Look For
Now that you know the causes of stroke and the main types, let’s discuss the signs and symptoms of stroke. Knowing the symptoms can help you act quickly if you or someone you love suffers a stroke, which can help save lives and possibly prevent permanent disability.
These are the stroke symptoms to be aware of:
- Speech difficulty, including slurred speech or problems understanding speech
- Sudden weakness or paralysis in your face, leg or arm, particularly on only one side of the body
- Difficulty walking, including lack of coordination or loss of balance, and dizziness
- Headache that is sudden and severe
- Vision problems in one or both eyes
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Do not wait to see if the symptoms go away before seeking medical attention because prompt treatment can decrease your risk of brain damage, disability and permanent damage to your memory, speech and movement. If you witness someone suffering from a stroke, stay with the person and watch him or her carefully until help arrives. It’s also important to make a note of when the symptoms first began; this information can greatly affect treatment options.
Remember the acronym “FAST” to help you recognize the symptoms of stroke. “FAST” stands for:
Face: Ask the person to smile and determine if one of the sides of his or her face droops.
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms and notice if one arm falls down.
Speech: Give the person a simple phrase and ask them to repeat it to you. Note if the person’s speech is slurred or sounds unusual.
Time: Call 911 right away if you observe any symptoms of stroke.
How to Prevent a Stroke
There are numerous risk factors for stroke, and many of them are within your control. By making healthy lifestyle choices and properly managing any pre-existing medical conditions, it is possible to reduce your risk. Let’s look at what you can do to prevent a stroke, starting with your lifestyle.
Eat a healthy diet. You can reduce your stroke risk by maintaining a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also important to limit your intake of trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Seafood, nuts, plant-based foods, beans, lean meats, and whole grains are excellent additions to any healthy diet.
Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 2.5 hours each week of exercise that’s moderate in intensity, like riding a bike, doing water aerobics or going for a brisk walk. By exercising regularly, you can improve your fitness levels, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, your risk of stroke increases. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help you maintain your weight.
Drink alcohol in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk of stroke. The CDC recommends no more than two alcoholic beverages a day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.
Don’t smoke. Smoking greatly increases your stroke risk. Even if you smoke now, quitting can significantly reduce your risk.
Now that you know how to make healthy lifestyle choices, let’s talk about managing health conditions. If you are diabetic, make sure you’re controlling your blood sugar. If you have atrial fibrillation or any other heart condition, speak with your physician about additional steps you can take to prevent a stroke. If you have high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, always take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. With the help of your health care team, you can treat the medical conditions that may increase your risk of stroke.
Get Help for Blood Clots and Venous Disease in Middle Georgia
Located in Georgia, Dr. Kenneth Harper is a proven leader in the field who has helped more than 20,000 patients suffering from venous disease during his career, and he is the founder of Vein Specialists of the South. Dr. Harper is board certified by the American Board of Surgery, and in 2008, he was in the first class of Diplomats of American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine. Dr. Harper earned his certification as a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation from the ARDMS and is also credentialed by CCI as a Registered Phlebology Sonographer.
If you are concerned about blood clots or your risk of developing a stroke or other medical conditions related to blood clots such as Varicose Veins, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE), schedule a consultation with Dr. Harper. His years of professional experience and passion for his patients are just a few reasons why Vein Specialists of the South is one of the top clinics in Georgia and the country. Don’t wait to discuss your risk of blood clots. Visit our Contact Page and schedule a consultation today.