Strokes are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. Every year 800,000 strokes occur in the U.S., and a stroke happens every 40 seconds. It is important to take the time to go over the facts and understand the signs of a stroke, what to do in the case of one, and how to prevent it.
What is a Stroke?
So, what exactly is a stroke? A stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked to an area of the brain, and is often referred to as a “brain attack”. When blood flow is blocked to an area of the brain, oxygen is cut off, thus brain cells begin to die. The death of brain cells causes that part of the brain to begin to cease to function, so brain activities such as muscle control and memory are often affected. But there are different kinds of strokes to look out for.
- Hemorrhagic: This occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, and there are two different types, an aneurism or arteriovenous malformations (AVMs). An aneurism is a week artery that supplies blood to the brain, and if it ruptures, it causes a stroke. A brain AVM is incredibly rare, and is a group of tangled irregular blood vessels that connect to the arteries and veins. Most commonly, hemorrhagic strokes are caused by high blood pressure.
- Ischemic: This type of stroke makes up 87% of all stroke cases. It is caused by blood clots, when there is a blockage within the vessels that supply blood to the brain. This often happens when fatty deposits develop around the lining of the vessel walls.
- Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Many consider this to be a “mini-stroke” and not at the same scale of the other types of strokes. This is because the blockage is temporary and only last for about 1 to 5 minutes. There is no damage after a TIA stroke. However, it is also considered a warning stroke, because although it does not cause permanent damage, it should be taken seriously and could lead to problems. 1/3 of people that experience a TIA have a stroke within the year.
Am I Having A Stroke?
So there are various types of strokes, but what are the signs that someone is having a stroke? The National Stroke Association recommends you learn the following: F.A.C.T., which means the following:
- Face Drooping
- Arm Weakness
- Speech Difficulty
- Time to Call 911
But there are more signs of a stroke, besides the 3 previously mentioned. Here are more major causes of concern:
- Numbness: This sign is more for the person experiencing the stroke, but is visible to others by the face drooping and arm weakness that can be visible on a stroke victim. This numbness is often experienced on one side of the body and can also occur on the legs as well as the face and arms.
- Dizziness: The victim often feels dizzy and has trouble walking due to an imbalance and loss of coordination.
- Headache: The victim will also experience a severe headache which will seem to appear of out nowhere.
- Trouble Seeing: One sign of a stroke is a sudden difficulty seeing, which could occur in one or both eyes.
- Mood Changes: Sudden depression or apathy could be a sign of a Stroke.
- Confusion: The victim will have trouble understanding what is happening, and no only have trouble with speak and communicating, but have trouble understanding others.
If someone is experiencing these symptoms, it is time to take step 4, or T, “time to call 911”.
What to Do In Case of Stroke
If someone is having a stroke, there are things that should be done until an ambulance has arrived. Keep calm and stay with the person that has had a stroke, and make sure you ride with them in the ambulance. Do not give the person food, water, or medicine so that they do not risk choking. Loosen any restrictive clothing, and try to make them comfortable. If the person is conscious, lay them down on their side, with their head slightly raised, and avoiding laying them on the side that is in pain. If they are unconscious yet still breathing, do the same. If they are unconscious and you feel no pulse, begin performing CPR immediately. If you do not know how to perform CPR, call 911 and have them walk you through it until the ambulance has arrived.
80% of all strokes are preventable, so there are ways to keep a stroke from happening. Mostly it involves getting rid of behaviors that are typically considered unhealthy, such as smoking and abusing alcohol. Here are ways to prevent a stroke:
- If you are overweight, lose weight
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce stress
- Quit smoking
- Stop abusing alcohol
- Eat a low-fat diet
- Minimize sodium intake
- Take blood pressure medication
If you have more questions about strokes and stroke prevention, contact us at (512) 238-0762 or fill out our contact sheet here.