Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of preventable long-term disability. Although the vast majority of strokes occur in much older people, the recent death of actor Luke Perry reminds us that strokes can occur in younger age groups as well, with approximately 10% of strokes occurring in people under 50 years old. There are two types of stroke – ischemic and hemorrhagic. Most strokes (~87%) are ischemic and are caused by a blockage within the blood vessels going to the brain. A smaller percentage of strokes (~13%) are hemorrhagic in nature and are caused by a leak or rupture of the blood vessel. The end result of both types of stroke is an interruption in blood flow to the brain so the brain cells begin to die and death can occur if there is significant swelling or bleeding associated with the event. Things that you can do:
Because 80% of strokes are preventable, know the risk factors that increase your chance of having a stroke and work with your doctor to eliminate or minimize those risks that you have some control over such as: high blood pressure (the #1 risk factor), high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, and obesity.
Know the warning signs and symptoms of stroke and what to do if you think that you or someone else is exhibiting those symptoms:
- Face– Have the person smile -does one side of the face droop or is it numb?
- Arm – Is one arm weak or numb? Have the patient hold both arms out – does one side drift downward?
- Speech – Does the person have difficulty speaking or understanding speech?
- Time to call 9-1-1 – If the person is exhibiting any of the above symptoms or any of the following other sudden-onset stroke symptoms: confusion, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, dizziness, trouble walking or loss of balance, or sudden severe headache (often described as “the worst of my life”).
According to the AHA/ASA, the average person loses up to 1.9 million neurons for each minute that an ischemic stroke is left untreated. The good news is that there are treatment options available but most of these treatments are time-dependent so don’t delay to see if the symptoms will improve. The chance of someone walking out of the hospital with little or no disability is greatly improved if treatment is initiated early so always remember to act F.A.S.T.
For more information about stroke you can visit the American Stroke Association website at: strokeassociation.org.
Milford Regional is proud to be a Primary Stroke Center, recognized for rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients, available to our community when it matters most.
Written by Anna Wholley, BS, RN
Quality Improvement/Stroke Coordinator, Milford Regional Medical Center