Strokes are a serious health issue, but early treatment may minimize the effects. Give you and your loved ones the best chance at recovery by learning the basic facts about strokes.
Background Facts About Strokes
1. What is a stroke? Strokes are events that interrupt blood flow to the brain. Some people make a full recovery, but most survivors experience some degree of disability. Strokes can be caused by a blood clot or when a blood vessel breaks.
2. Understand the prevalence. Anyone can have a stroke. They are the fourth leading cause of death in the US. The good news is that 80% of strokes can be prevented.
3. Recognize the symptoms. The symptoms of a stroke depend on where in the brain they occur and the intensity of the event. Common signs include sudden numbness or loss of movement, especially if it affects only one side of your body. Other indicators are mental confusion, headaches or trouble with vision, speaking or balance.
4. Know the uncontrollable risk factors. Some factors are beyond our control. These include being past the age of 55 or having a family history of strokes. Men and certain ethnic groups like African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are also at higher risk.
5. Manage the controllable risks. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to lower your risk. A healthy lifestyle will help keep your brain and whole body strong. Certain medical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, also contribute to the likelihood of stroke, so that’s another good reason to manage them correctly.
6. Distinguish between different kinds of strokes. There are two major forms of stroke:
* An ischemic stroke is related to a blood clot and requires restoring the blood flow.
* A hemorrhagic stroke indicates bleeding and calls for controlling blood loss.
7. Find out about mini-strokes. The technical term for mini-strokes is transient ischemic attacks (TIA) where a blood vessel is briefly blocked. Up to half of all strokes occur within two days after a TIA so act promptly if you notice slurred speech or blurry vision.
Preventing and Treating Strokes
1. Seek emergency care. The first hours after a stroke are a crucial opportunity to minimize brain damage. Go to the hospital immediately or call 911. Fast action makes all the difference.
2. Talk with your doctor. Surgery is sometimes needed but many strokes are treated with medication and lifestyle changes. Your doctor can advise you on the best regimen for you.
3. Quit smoking. Giving up tobacco lowers your risk of stroke in addition to all the other benefits. Check out the website of the American Lung Association for tips on quitting.
4. Lose weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight will also help. Find a sensible diet you can stick with for life.
5. Exercise regularly. Physical activity is good for your brain and waistline. Keep your circulatory system in prime condition with a half hour aerobic workout at least a few days a week.
6. Eat a balanced diet. Proper nutrition provides your brain cells with the fuel they need. Get most of your calories from vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Select lean sources of protein and healthy fats.
7. Limit your alcohol consumption. Using alcohol responsibly protects you from strokes. The general guidelines are two drinks or less daily for men and one for women.
Prompt medical treatment is vital to improve your chances of survival and recovery after a stroke. Even better, a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of you or a loved one ever experiencing such an event.