In the United States, one person experiences a stroke every 40 seconds. Each year, that’s more than 795,000 people. Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and is the fifth leading cause of death in this country. Despite how common this disease is, many people don’t understand stroke, its symptoms, and how to lower their risk of having one.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and the team at Vascular Specialists of Central Florida wants you to understand stroke to help you avoid the risks of falling victim to this devastating illness.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke is a kind of “brain attack,” and it happens when blood flow to the vein is disrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel near the brain bursts, when a clot forms, or, from narrowing of the vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your brain. When blood flow is blocked tiny brain cells can start to die off within minutes. This can cause irreparable damage to all kinds of bodily functions, including:
- Control of the muscles
- Movement and coordination
- Thinking, reasoning, and memory
Strokes can cause paralysis and even death; one person dies of a stroke every four minutes in the United States. For people exhibiting signs of stroke, this is an urgent medical emergency. The signs of stroke include:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Facial drooping or one-sided paralysis
- Loss of speech or speech impairment
- Sudden severe headache
- Vision loss
- Weakness in a specific area of the body
The acronym F.A.S.T. helps people recognize the signs of stroke. F.A.S.T. stands for:
- Face drooping or paralysis
- Arm weakness on one side
- Speech is unintelligible
- Time to call 911
Stroke symptoms can happen quickly. Be aware of the signs of a stroke and act quickly to get help from a medical professional.
Are There Different Types of Strokes?
Yes, there are three primary types of strokes.
Ischemic strokes are most common. They happen when the brain’s blood vessels become blocked or narrowed, which reduces blood flow. This can happen over time as fatty deposits build up within the body’s blood vessels. A blood clot can also form and travel up through the bloodstream to lodge in the brain.
Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a leak or rupture in a blood vessel near or in the brain. High blood pressure can be a cause of this sudden crisis. Trauma, such as a car accident, can also cause hemorrhagic stroke. Or, a preexisting weakness in the structure of your blood vessel walls (an aneurysm) can cause hemorrhagic stroke.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA), is a ministroke that is a serious red flag that a more serious ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke will occur. The symptoms of a TIA are similar to ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, but because they usually go away quickly, they are often ignored. This is a serious mistake that could lead to illness or death; see your doctor if you have any signs of a stroke even if the symptoms disappear just as quickly as they arrived.
Who Has Strokes?
Anyone at any age can have a stroke but we know there are certain risk factors that predispose you to have one. This includes:
- Genetics or a family health history or stroke
- People over the age of 55
- Race seems to play a role, for example, Black Americans are more likely to have a stroke than White Americans
- Stroke is more common in women than men
While these risk factors really can’t be controlled, there are also some lifestyle changes that you can make to lessen your risk of stroke. In general, you should avoid:
- A poor diet
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Cigarette smoking
- Developing diabetes
- Eating too much salt
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High blood pressure
Trying to make better food choices and eating healthier, getting exercise, and, taking better care of yourself can all help you lessen the risk of stroke. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other illnesses, work closely with your doctor to get these issues under control. Stroke can be deadly but the good news is prevention can help you reduce the chance that you’ll suffer from this disease.
How Are Strokes Treated?
Time is of the essence when treating a stroke. Life-saving treatment begins from the moment the emergency department arrives. However, one in three stroke victims never calls 911, instead electing to drive or have someone else drive them to the hospital. Calling for an ambulance is important because immediate treatment can begin on your way to the hospital.
In the hospital emergency room, your medical history and symptoms will be assessed. You will undergo brain scans to determine the type of stroke you’re experiencing. In an ischemic stroke, you may be given a “clot-buster” called a thrombolytic medication to break up the obstruction stopping blood flow. A hemorrhagic stroke may require surgery to stop the bleeding.
You can recover from a stroke. Post-stroke patients often have rehabilitation to help them recover. Depending upon the severity of the stroke, you may have physical therapy to recover physical function. You will work closely with your healthcare team to return to as many normal activities as possible while also working to prevent the risk that a second stroke could occur.
Throughout this process, the team of committed, experienced doctors at Vascular Specialists of Central Florida will work beside you to get you back to health. Contact us for your next appointment by clicking here.