A Guide to Stroke Awareness and Prevention
At Era Living, we often work with seniors in the Seattle area who have been touched by a stroke. It might be someone they love who has experienced a stroke or they themselves are recovering from one. In honor of National Stroke Awareness Month, we have assembled a variety resources and information to help you learn more.
What is a Stroke?
In simple terms, a stroke occurs when blood flow and oxygen to the brain have been cut off. There are two types of strokes:
- Ischemic stroke – This is the most common type of stroke. 87% of all strokes are ischemic. It happens when an artery becomes blocked. This can be the result of a blood clot or from plaque build-up and fatty deposits in the arteries.
- Hemorrhagic stroke – Though less common than an ischemic stroke, it is the more deadly. While less than 15% of all strokes are hemorrhagic, they account for over 30% of all stroke deaths. These types of strokes are the result of a blood vessel in the brain rupturing and leaking blood in the brain.
Strokes affect movement, speech, awareness, mental and bodily functions. A person having a stroke may even lose consciousness.
The Facts about Strokes
The statistics surrounding strokes are frightening. Someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds. Someone dies from a stroke every four minutes. According to the National Stroke Association, that adds up to almost 800,000 strokes a year.
Despite the fact that stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., awareness about it remains low.
What We Know About Strokes
Here is what we know about strokes:
- More men than women experience a stroke, but women are more likely to die from one.
- Stroke is the leading cause of the most serious of long-term disabilities in the U.S.
- African Americans are twice as likely to suffer a stroke compared with their Caucasian counterparts.
- Strokes can happen to anyone despite their race, sex or age. Almost 25% of strokes occur in people under the age of 55.
- About 25% of people who have a stroke will have another one within five years.
Risk Factors for a Stroke
While some risk factors for stroke are beyond your control, The Stroke Awareness Foundation believes that almost 80% of strokes are preventable. The unavoidable risk factors of a stroke include:
- Age: Your risk of stroke doubles every decade over the age of 55.
- Family: Having a family history of stroke increases your risk.
- Race: African Americans are at higher risk than others.
- Personal history: Having experienced a stroke or TIA makes you more likely to experience another one.
The greatest controllable risk factors for stroke are:
- Alcohol consumption
Each of these can contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases which all increase the risk of a stroke.
How Can You Prevent a Stroke?
The top seven stroke prevention measures most experts agree on are:
- Manage Hypertension: More commonly known as high blood pressure, hypertension is a leading cause of stroke. Knowing what your blood pressure is and keeping it within the range your physician considers acceptable can help prevent a stroke.
- Stop Smoking: If you are a smoker, your risk for experiencing a stroke is nearly double that of a non-smoker. The good news is that if you stop, you immediately begin to decrease that risk.
- Control Cholesterol: The presence of this fatty substance can be attributed to both genetics and a healthy – or unhealthy – lifestyle. Diet plays an especially key role. Cholesterol clogs the arteries and can eventually cause a stroke.
- Identify an Abnormal Heartbeat: Atrial fibrillation (A fib) can increase the risk of stroke by as much as 500%. That is because it causes blood to pool in the heart, which can in turn cause a clot to form. Identifying A fib can help lower a person’s risk for stroke.
- Treat Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): This occurs when the blood vessels in the arms and legs are damaged. It can lead to clotting and cause a stroke. If you have PAD, follow your physician’s orders for treatment to cut your risk of stroke.
- Stop Alcohol & Drug Abuse: Indulging in too much alcohol or abusing drugs is proven to increase the risk of stroke. Generally, women should have no more than one alcoholic beverage a day and men no more than two. Take only those drugs prescribed by your physician.
- Healthy Lifestyle: A less than healthy lifestyle causes a variety of problems that can all lead to stroke. Being overweight puts stress on your circulatory system and can lead to plaque build-up in arteries. A diet high in sodium, salt and fats adds to that stress. Instead, eat five to seven servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week. Monitor your intake of saturated and trans fats.
If you follow these guidelines, you can help decrease your risk of stroke by as much as 80%.
Know the Stroke Warning Signs to Act FAST
Despite the fact that there are almost 800,000 strokes each year in the U.S. most people are unaware of the warning signs. It is important for everyone to know the signs so they can react quickly and summon help.
The National Stroke Association uses the acronym FAST to help people learn and remember the warning signs:
F=FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A=ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S=SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is their speech slurred or strange sounding?
T=TIME If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Every minute during a stroke 2 million brain cells die. That increases the risk of death and permanent disability.
Stroke Education and Resources
Please feel free to share this information with your family, friends and social network in honor of National Stroke Awareness Month.