There are 800,000 strokes reported every year in America. They can happen at any time without warning. A stroke is a medical condition also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) and can be caused by a blood clot that prevents blood from going through a vessel to the brain or a bleed in the brain. Strokes can last a number of hours or even a number of days and cause brain cells to die immediately. Those suffering from stroke may develop permanent disabilities. Read on to learn more about stroke, how to identify it and what you can do to prevent it.
The signs and symptoms vary from patient to patient. Some people may not even know they are having a stroke. But it is important to know the signs of a stroke because getting help immediately can lower the chances of brain damage. Experts recommend using a FAST test to check for common stroke symptoms. FAST stands for face, arms, speech and time. First Face-Ask the suspected stroke patient to smile and check to see if one side of the face droops. Arms- Next ask them to raise both arms and check to see if one arm is weak and drops down. Third, Speech-Ask the suspected patient to repeat a short phrase and watch for signs of slurred or strange speech. Finally, Time-If the answer to any of the FAST tests is yes, call 911 immediately. Also record the time the symptoms begin so the medical team can prevent further brain damage.
It's important to note that these FAST symptoms can happen all at once or individually. It could also be a stroke it someone's experiences sudden confusion, has difficulty speaking or understanding speech. It could be a stroke if there is sudden numbness or weakness in the face, legs or arms or entire one side of the body. Additional stroke signs are severe headaches, dizziness, loss of balance, loss of coordination and sudden trouble with vision. If someone is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is imperative you call 911. Time is very critical and they will have the proper equipment and medicine to get the patient the care they need to prevent any additional damage.
There are some easy lifestyle changes to reduce your risks of having a stroke. One is getting the right amount of sleep. Experts recommend 7 hours every night will reduce your stroke risk. Changing your diet and exercising can reduce your chances for a stroke. Replacing butter with olive oil for sauteing, frying and baking reduces your risk of heart related diseases including stroke. Olive oil is full of essential fatty acids that are heart friendly. Foods that are heart healthy are salmon and fish, oatmeal, black beans, sweet potatoes, bananas, blueberries, dark chocolate, garlic, pumpkin seeds, low-fat dairy products, and dark leafy greens. Incorporate them into your everyday routine for a healthier, stroke-free lifestyle.
Additionally, there are medications available for those who may be more at risk of stroke. Many are designed to break up existing blood clots and prevent blood clots from forming in the blood vessels. There are other drugs that work to adjust cholesterol levels and adjust high blood pressure to assist in preventing blood flow blockages. Anticoagulants (Warfarin, Coumadin, Marfaring) are stroke prevention drugs that keep your blood from clotting and prevent existing clots from growing any larger.
Antiplatelets (Clopidogrel, Plavix, Asprin) prevent blood clot formation making it difficult for the blood platelets to stick together. They are prescribed for patients who have already had a stroke or heart attack. Statin drugs (Lipitor, Torvast, Lescol) help lower blood cholesterol levels preventing plaque buildup. They also block an enzyme that is needed to produce cholesterol preventing heart attacks caused by clogged arteries.