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Cut Your Risk of a Stroke
May is National Stroke Awareness Month Medically Reviewed by Nicolette Naso, MD
All of a sudden you feel dizzy. You try to talk, but it doesn’t come out right. Your leg (or arm or face) feels weak and numb. A splitting headache hits you out of the blue. Your vision blurs. The symptoms of a stroke seem simple and straightforward. However, a survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that only 38% of people could correctly identify all 5 symptoms of stroke. If these appear SUDDENLY, call 911 immediately. Stroke is the leading cause of death and long-term disability in the US.
“The ability to identify stroke symptoms is important, because the speed with which a victim receives treatment is critical to their survival and recovery,” says McLeod Cardiologist Nicolette Naso, MD. “It can take months to recover from the disabilities. Sadly, about 30% of patients who survive have life-long disabilities.”
A long list of factors raise a person’s risk for suffering stroke:
- Atrial Fibrillation. Irregular beating of the heart can cause blood to pool in the heart, leading to blood clots. These clots can then be carried to the brain, triggering a stroke.
- Smoking. In much the same way smoking attacks blood vessels and the heart, the damage can increase the chance of stroke.
- High Blood Pressure. Aside from stopping smoking, controlling your blood pressure is one of the few risk factors that a person can control.
- Age. The older we are the more likely a person is to suffer a stroke.
- Women & Hormones. Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies can cause problems in some women, leading to a stroke.
- Preeclampsia. A pregnant woman, who suffered preeclampsia during pregnancy, faces increased risk of a stroke in her 50s and 60s.
- Migraines. People who have these debilitating headaches – especially when accompanied by fuzzy vision, flashy lights or a weak arm – face increased stroke risk.
There are primarily 2 types of strokes. Hemorrhagic Stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. When a clot blocks blood to the brain, an Ischemic Stroke, the most common type, occurs. A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) occurs when the blood supply is only briefly interrupted.
Final Thought: TIAs are often viewed as a warning sign that the person may face a more serious stroke in the near future. TIAs should not be ignored. The person should be seen by a specialist as soon as possible.
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Sources include: McLeod Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association, National Stroke Association, Women’s Health Initiative, National Institutes of Health, Preeclampsia Foundation.