- - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Strokes threaten millions of lives — every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke. And, on average, one American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes, taking 130,000 lives a year and making it the 5th-leading cause of death in our country. And, too, among survivors, it can cause severe long-term disability and handicap.

The facts are that strokes are largely preventable, treatable and beatable – but action is required. In fact, research shows that 80% of all strokes are preventable by taking action. Early recognition of signs and symptoms and timely treatment, you, or a loved one, may be able to avoid or decrease disability; save someone’s life; and be among those who survive a stroke. There are vital points of action you need to know and now is the time to understand them!! May is American Stroke Month and the American Stroke Association is calling all of us to be Stroke Heroes — to cultivate our powers to act to help prevent and treat stroke.

Dr. Nina’s What you need to know: About Strokes – Prevention and Treatment

What is a stroke? Insufficient blood flow to the brain that leads to cell death. The formal medical term is cerebrovascular accident (CVA). Our brain cells, also known as neurons, are responsible for thinking, memory, movement, feeling/sensation, talking and practically every aspect of our body and life. Because these cells are so active, they require a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients that are provided by our blood vessels. Every sixty seconds (or one minute) of interrupted blood flow can result in 2,000,000 brain cells dying. This can rapidly create significant disability in how we live our lives and if blood flow is not restored, death.

What are the different types of strokes?
• Ischemic (ih-skee-mik): The artery gets blocked, often by a clot, and this prevents adequate blood flow. It is responsible for 87 percent of all strokes.
• Hemorrhagic (hem-ur-ajic): An artery leaks or ruptures and the resultant leaked blood puts pressure on the neurons, causing damage. This can result from dangerously high blood pressures that overwhelm the blood vessel walls, chronic high blood pressures that cause wear and tear over time, and/or weakened blood vessels.
• “Mini-stroke:” A temporary blockage caused by a clot. This is also referred to as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Unlike a stroke, the symptoms resolve and there is no permanent injury to the brain. A TIA is a warning sign for a future stroke and must be taken seriously: more than 30 percent of people who have a TIA end up having a major stroke within 1 year if they do not receive treatment. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke. If you have a TIA, your health care team can find the cause and take steps to prevent a major stroke.

What are risk factors for a stroke?
Stroke does not discriminate and while risk increases with age, young adults, children, and even unborn babies can suffer strokes. It can happen to anyone, at any age if there is an inadequate blood supply to meet the demands of the neurons. However, there are certain known risk factors—genetics, lifestyle, medical illnesses—that increase our risk. While we cannot change our genes, we can make adjustments to lifestyle choices and manage illnesses in order to decrease our risk for a stroke. Again, 80% of all strokes are preventable – but action is required.

We can help prevent stroke by making healthy lifestyle choices.

• Lifestyle: Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure; eat healthy (foods that are heart healthy are also brain healthy!); maintain a healthy weight; quit smoking (or never start!); and if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
• Medical illnesses: Control high blood pressure; control blood cholesterol levels (when elevated, fatty plaques develop inside blood vessel walls); control blood sugars if you are a diabetic (over time, elevated blood sugars cause damage to blood vessel walls not just in the brain, but the heart, kidneys, and eyes).
• See your physician if you have any concerns or symptoms
• And schedule regular physical for a heart-healthy check-up

What symptoms are seen when there is a stroke in evolution?
Any sudden: Weakness or numbness in our leg, arm, or face; confusion; difficulty speaking; difficulty with vision; or dizziness or loss of balance.

What do you do if you or someone you know may be having a stroke?
Act F-A-S-T. These understandings can help you identify symptoms of stroke FAST!!
• FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
• ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
• SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
• TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately (even if they resolve)
There is a saying: “With stroke, time lost is brain lost.” Every minute—in fact, every second—counts. FAST treatment is imperative to minimize damage and save a life.

What are treatments for a stroke?
Stroke is largely treatable – but time matters. The faster someone is treated the more likely they are to recover without permanent disability. Upon arrival at the hospital, a history and physical exam, as well as a brain scan will be performed. Depending on the type of stroke and time elapsed since symptoms started, treatment will be tailored to the patient. It may include specialized medications to break up a clot, endovascular (noninvasive) treatment, or surgery.

We can do it!! There is much more work to do and by knowing stroke risk factors, we can take proven, effective steps towards minimizing those that we have control over. By recognizing symptoms, we can act F-A-S-T and truly be a hero when a stroke has hit. (Friends usually save friends from stroke.) Understanding and action can decrease devastating disability and increase survival. Let’s take the pledge: Together, to end stroke!!

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