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Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the US, with one person dying every 4 minutes as a result. For black people, stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death. Approximately 800,000 people have a stroke each year; about one every 40 seconds. Strokes occur due to problems with the blood supply to the brain: either the blood supply is blocked or a blood vessel within the brain ruptures, causing brain tissue to die. A stroke is a medical emergency, and treatment must be sought as quickly as possible.
There are three main kinds of stroke:
Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), also referred to as mini-strokes
Causes of stroke
Ischemic stroke is caused by blockages or narrowing of the arteries that provide blood to the brain, resulting in ischemia – severely reduced blood flow.
Hemorrhagic stroke are caused by arteries in the brain either leaking blood or bursting open.
TIAs are different from the aforementioned kinds of stroke because the flow of blood to the brain is only briefly interrupted. TIAs are similar to ischemic strokes in that they are often caused by blood clots or other debris.
It is important to know the warning signs of stroke, because you or a family member might find yourself in an unwanted situation when it happens. If you happen to be experiencing any of the signs we are going to mention today, immediately seek out medical help or go in for a check-up. Although the symptoms can vary depending on the person, only one thing is known for sure strokes begin suddenly.
Here are the most common stroke symptoms:
Falling unconsciousness / absent mindedness
Light-headedness and weakness
The main symptoms of stroke are as follows:
Confusion, including trouble with speaking and understanding
Headache, possibly with altered consciousness or vomiting
Numbness of the face, arm or leg, particularly on one side of the body
Trouble with seeing, in one or both eyes
Trouble with walking, including dizziness and lack of co-ordination.
Strokes can lead to long-term problems. Depending on how quickly it is diagnosed and treated, the patient can experience temporary or permanent disabilities in the aftermath of a stroke. In addition to the persistence of the problems listed above, patients may also experience the following:
Bladder or bowel control problems
Pain in the hands and feet that gets worse with movement and temperature changes
Paralysis or weakness on one or both sides of the body
Trouble controlling or expressing emotions.
Strokes happen fast and will often occur before an individual can be seen by a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you’ll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F.A.S.T. is:
Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.
The faster a person with suspected stroke receives medical attention, the better their prognosis and the less likely they will be to experience lasting damage or death. In order for a stroke patient to get the best diagnosis and treatment possible, they will need to be treated at a hospital within 3 hours of their symptoms first appearing.
Treatments for stroke
Treatment for Ischemic strokes can begin with drugs to break down clots and prevent further ones from forming. Aspirin can be given, as can an injection of a tissue plasminogen activator (TPA). TPA is very effective at dissolving clots but needs to be injected within 4.5 hours of stroke symptoms manifesting themselves.
Treatment for hemorrhagic strokes can begin with drugs being given to reduce the pressure in the brain, overall blood pressure, prevent seizures and prevent sudden constrictions of blood vessels. If the patient is taking anti-coagulant or anti-platelet medication like Warfarin or Clopidogrel, they can be given drugs or blood transfusions to counter the medication’s effects.
Preventing a stroke
The best way to prevent a stroke is to address the underlying causes. This is best done by living healthily, which means:
Eating a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy weight
Avoiding alcohol or moderating consumption.
Eating a healthy diet means getting plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes; eating little or no red or processed meat; limiting intake of cholesterol and saturated fat (typically found in foods of animal origin); and minimizing salt intake so as to support healthy blood pressure.
Other measures taken to help reduce the risk of stroke include:
Keeping blood pressure under control
Managing diabetes well
Treating obstructive sleep apnea (if present).