Did you know that stroke is a leading cause of death and the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States? Stroke is absolutely devastating, but it can be prevented with better public awareness of stroke risk and healthier habits throughout local communities.
A stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked in a certain part of the brain. A blockage in the arteries can become so large that it prevents blood from reaching the brain, causing irreparable damage to the brain tissues. This process is called ischemic stroke, and it accounts for about 80% of all stroke cases. Hemorrhagic stroke is less predictable than ischemic stroke, and it occurs when an aneurysm—or weakening of the artery wall—bursts and allows blood to leak into the brain. Below, you will see some facts and stroke prevention tips related to ischemic stroke to help you and your loved ones stay healthy for a lifetime.
Stroke facts and figures
About 700,000 Americans suffer from stroke each year, and of these individuals, 175,000 will experience a fatal stroke. However, many of these cases are preventable, because stroke is often related to lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of exercise, or cigarette smoking. In cases that cannot be prevented, rapid response is the key to survival.
Recognizing a stroke
Every second counts when it comes to emergency response treatment for stroke. The acronym FACE can help you easily recognize a stroke in another individual so that you are able to call 911 immediately.
- F – Face: Stroke may cause weakness in the facial muscles, causing droopiness on one side of the face. If you suspect a stroke, ask the person to smile. One side of the lips may droop downward while the other side looks relatively normal.
- A – Arms: Stroke victims may also lose muscle control in their extremities. Ask the person to lift their arms and take note if one droops downward.
- S - Speech: Because there are so many parts of the brain linked to language production and comprehension, speech is often impacted by stroke. If the person cannot repeat a short, simple phrase or answer a simple question, he or she may be suffering a stroke.
- T – Time: Time is critical for stroke treatment and successful recovery. As soon as you recognize any of the signs above, you should seek emergency care by dialing 911. A few minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
Stroke risk factors
Many of the risk factors for stroke are the same as heart attack risk factors. The reason for this is that the process of a heart attack is very similar to stroke, it just affects a different organ.
“To minimize your risk for stroke, you should take steps to improve your circulation and prevent blockages in the arteries,” says Dr. Michael Zhang, a neurologist with the Edward Neurosciences Institute in affiliation with Northwestern Medicine. “This means eating healthy by cutting out cholesterol and added sugars, exercising for at least two hours each week, and eliminating substances like alcohol and tobacco. Because obesity has become more prevalent in the United States, stroke has become a much more common health concern.”
While making lifestyle changes is a good start for stroke prevention, you should also see your doctor for a clinical look at your stroke risk. Stroke and vascular screening takes less than one hour, and it may identify risk factors that have no other signs or symptoms. You can learn if stroke and vascular screening is right for you by taking an online StrokeAware assessment from Edward Hospital.
To learn more about stroke care at Edward Hospital, visit their website or call 630-527-7730. With the right prevention tools now, you can be a part of the effort to end stroke in the United States.