Globally, strokes are the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death, affecting 14.5 million people this year alone and taking 5.5 million lives. Those that survive their strokes experience a significantly diminished quality of life in areas like physical movement, communication, social support, self-esteem, and independence.
However, nearly all of these strokes are preventable. Though there are multiple possible risk factors for stroke, many of them are related to lifestyle, such as smoking and poor diet, and most greatly affect individuals in low- and middle-income countries.
Make a renewed commitment to your health and the health of your loved ones for World Stroke Day on October 29, 2019. World Stroke Day is the World Stroke Organization’s largest annual campaign to help raise awareness about stroke and promote its prevention. This year’s theme is “Don’t Be the One,” a reference to the 1 in 4 people who will suffer a stroke in their lifetime. Through a host of activities, campaigns, and events, the World Stroke Organization is encouraging people to protect each other and themselves from stroke, and help each other live longer, healthier lives.
What causes a stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is obstructed, depriving the brain of oxygen and causing brain cells to die. The two most common types of stroke are ischemic (from a blocked artery) and hemorrhagic (from leaking blood vessels).
Ischemic strokes are often the result of atherosclerosis—a condition caused by increased fatty deposits lining the vessel walls—or a blood clot, both of which block blood flow to the brain. Ischemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes.
A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and causes bleeding in the brain. This can result from uncontrolled high blood pressure, injury, or certain bleeding disorders.
Am I at risk for a stroke?
Strokes can result from a myriad of factors, and many risk factors are preventable. Risk factors that are manageable and treatable include:
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes I & II
- Diets high in cholesterol, saturated fats, sodium, and trans fat
- Low or no physical activity
- High blood cholesterol
Some conditions and cardiovascular diseases can put you at an increased risk for stroke, but, by taking the appropriate measures, you can keep your chances of actually experiencing a stroke low. If you have one or more of the following conditions, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to mitigate your stroke risk:
- Atrial fibrillation
- Peripheral Artery Disease, or PAD
- Carotid Artery Disease
- Various heart diseases or heart defects
- Sickle Cell Anemia
While strokes are highly preventable and can often be avoided by changes in lifestyle, there are certain risk factors that are simply out of your control. However, by being aware of them and by managing the factors you can control, you can drastically reduce your chances of having a stroke. Some inherent risk factors include:
- Family history of stroke
- Previous heart attack or stroke
Strokes can affect almost anyone and usually unexpectedly, so knowing your unique risk factors is critical. Being familiar with your health statistics and mindful of your lifestyle habits can help improve your own self-awareness of stroke. Be sure to discuss any concerns or potential risk factors with your doctor; he or she can be a wealth of resources to help keep your stroke risk as low as possible.
How do I know if I’m having a stroke?
Time is of the utmost importance when treating a patient who has had or is having a stroke because two million brain cells die every minute that the brain does not receive oxygen. Learning and sharing the F.A.S.T. acronym is an excellent way to quickly identify any warning signs and potentially save a life.
Face drooping: Is one side of the face starting to droop or become numb? When asked to smile, is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?
Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech: Is speech slurred? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the person unable to speak or difficult to understand?
Time to call 911: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms seem to go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.
A stroke can also display a number of other sudden symptoms, including:
- Numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion, difficulty speaking, or garbled speech
- Difficulty seeing with one or both eyes
- Difficulty walking, sudden dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no apparent cause
If you suspect someone is having a stroke, call 911 immediately, and remember that every minute counts. If emergency physicians determine the stroke is related to blocked arteries, they may administer blood thinners or conduct a procedure to remove any blood clots and facilitate regular blood flow to the brain. If the stroke is due to bleeding, medications can help reduce the bleeding in the brain or surgery can repair the artery.
Use World Stroke Day as an opportunity to take charge of your health now and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Cardiovascular Health Clinic is committed to providing comprehensive cardiovascular care, and remains dedicated to the treatment and prevention of stroke.
Don’t wait until you or a loved one has suffered a stroke. Call us at (405) 701-9880 or schedule an appointment at https://cvhealthclinic.com/schedule-an-appointment/ and find out if you are at risk for stroke. Our specialists can help you identify potential risk factors, determine any existing symptoms, and develop a plan to either treat your current condition or prevent future problems.