What is Stroke?
Stroke is an emergency. It is an attack on the brain, which cuts off vital blood flow and oxygen. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, killing 137,000 people each year in the United States. It is the leading cause of serious long-term disability in adults.
Signs and Symptoms
It is important that all of us recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke. If you or someone you know has the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Slurred Speech
- One sided weakness
- Facial Droop
- Sudden severe Headache
- Blurry Vision
Types of Stroke
According to the American Stroke Association Ischemic strokes account for 87 percent of all strokes. An Ischemic stroke occurs when blood vessels to the brain become narrowed or clogged with plaque, which cuts off blood flow and oxygen. High blood pressure is a risk factor, but it can be controlled with medication.
Symptoms of Ischemic stroke include: facial drooping, slurred speech, one sided weakness and altered mental status.
When stroke patients arrive, UMC's healthcare team takes immediate action. They assess the patient and a physician will review medical history, conduct a physical and neurological exam, order laboratory tests, order a CT or MRI and then decide on proper therapy. The goal is to try and minimize the brain injury and treat the patient as quickly as possible. The only FDA approved drug that can be used to treat ischemic strokes is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). This medication is a clot busting drug. tPA must be given to patients within 4.5 hours of the first symptoms of stroke.
According to the American Stroke Association, about 13 percent of strokes happen when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain. This is known as a Hemorrhagic stroke. Causes for this type of stroke are high blood pressure and brain aneurysms which can cause the blood vessel to weaken.
A Hemorrhagic stroke has a mortality rate of 45 percent or higher. A person may complain of “the worst headache of my life.”, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck and altered mental status.
There are two types of treatment: Surgical clipping or endovascular coiling. The treatment is dependent on the patient’s age, severity, medical history, location and shape of the ruptured aneurysm.
Transient Ischemic ATTACK (TIA)
If an artery leading to the brain becomes blocked for a short period of time, the blood flow to the brain slows or stops. This lack of blood to the brain can cause a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. Known symptoms of a TIA are numbness, trouble speaking and loss of balance. It is common for these symptoms to last a short while and then disappear. While TIAs cause no permanent brain damage, they could be indicators of an approaching stroke and should not be ignored. Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a TIA.
Identifying the risk factors is the first step in preventing stroke. You can reduce the risk factors and with the help of a physician can make significant changes to your health. You can reduce your chances of having a stroke significantly by leading a healthy lifestyle and knowing the risks.
Know your blood pressure
This is the single most important risk factor and the number 1 cause of stroke. Know your blood pressure and have it checked at least once every two years. If you have a family history of high blood pressure or if your blood pressure is consistently 140/90 or above talk to your physician about how to manage it.
Identify a heart condition called atrial fibrillation (Afib)
Afib is an abnormal heartbeat which if left untreated can cause blood to stay in your heart’s chambers which can lead to blood clots, and ultimately cause stroke.
Smoking doubles the risk for stroke. Tobacco use damages blood vessels, raises blood pressure and makes the heart work harder. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
If you have diabetes it puts you at an increased risk for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage diabetes.
If you have high cholesterol, the risks of heart disease and stroke are higher. Cholesterol can clog arteries and cause stroke but can be controlled with healthy diet, exercise and medication. Speak to a doctor if your cholesterol level is 200 or higher.
A brisk walk, swimming and even taking the stairs can increase your activity level and improve your health. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day may reduce your stroke risk.
Maintain a healthy diet
Cutting down on sodium and avoiding fatty foods may lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for stroke.
Speak with a doctor if you have circulation problems. Fatty deposits can block arteries. Such a blockage can cause a stroke.
Recognize Stroke Symptoms
Stroke is an Emergency. Call 9-1-1 to seek immediate medical attention.
If you have any of these risk factors please discuss them with your primary care physician. They will determine whether or not you need specialized care.