May is American Stroke Month- Let’s Get Back to the Basics |
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About 795,000 Americans will have a new or recurrent stroke this year, and more than 137,000 of them will die. Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death among Americans. Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. But, do you really know what a stroke is? Almost half of Americans can’t even name one stroke warning sign. May is American Stroke Month so let’s get back to the basics on what a stroke is, prevention and what to do if you notice signs of a stroke. “It is important to know and understand a stroke so you know how you can prevent stroke or react in an emergency,” says Dr. Ravi Yarlagadda, Neurologist , St. Vincent’s Spine & Brain Institute. Stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain can’t get the blood (and oxygen) it needs. Brain tissue then starts to die. When part of the brain dies from lack of blood flow, the part of the body it controls is affected. Strokes can cause paralysis, affect language and vision, and cause other problems. There are two types of strokes. Clots that block an artery cause ischemic strokes. This is most common type of stroke, accounting for about 87%. The other kind of stroke is caused by ruptured blood vessels. This is called a hemorrhagic or bleeding stroke. With this kind of stroke, blood spills into the brain tissue. The good news is that stroke is largely preventable. The first step in prevention is to understand your risk factors and modify your personal choices and lifestyle to be more heart healthy. A risk factor is a behavior or characteristic that increases your chance of stroke. “Because there are risk factors you can’t control such as increasing age, gender, heredity and race or the history of a prior stroke, it is even more important to focus on the ones you can,” says Yarlagadda. “Controllable risk factors include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, excessive drinking, illegal drug use, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, obesity and diabetes.”
When it comes to a stroke, every second counts. The signs or symptoms of a stroke appear suddenly. Knowing these warning signs may help save a life:
- 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, severe headache with no known cause
Not every person having a stroke will have all the signs or symptoms . If you recognize the warning signs of a stroke act quickly. Stroke is a medical emergency. Every second counts! Respond by calling 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone close to you is having warning signs of stroke. Then check the time. When did the first symptom start? You'll be asked this important question later.
In the past, doctors couldn't do much to help stroke victims. That's not true today. Now having a stroke doesn't have to lead to disability or death. The key is to recognize a stroke and get to the hospital immediately. The clot-dissolving drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) can reduce long-term disability if it's given within 4.5 hours after an ischemic stroke starts.
Unfortunately, tPA isn't used as often as it could be because many people don't seek care quickly. Don't make that mistake. If you or someone near you have the warning signs of a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Take control of your heart health in order to lead a stronger, longer and healthier life. For more information on stroke visit the American Heart Association at PowerToEndStroke.org.
About the American Heart Association-First Coast Market
The American Heart Association-First Coast Market drives cardiovascular and stroke research — from prevention to treatment — to enable Americans, at all ages, to establish good heart-health habits to prevent cardiovascular disease in their lives, or to improve their quality of life if they have heart disease or stroke. We engage the community and donors through our 3 key initiatives, the Heart Walk, Heart Ball, and Go Red For Women, by providing education and funding opportunities that pave the way for tomorrow’s lifesaving medical innovations which will lead to improved cardiovascular health for the people of Jacksonville and across the country.