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Stroke is one of the most dangerous medical events imaginable, carrying a high mortality rate and a significant chance of long-term neurological damage for survivors. Despite the prevalence of stroke, as well as the importance of quick treatment for both survival and recovery, only 38% of people can recognize the immediate signs of stroke.
Stroke has a massive impact on health in the United States, and is one of the nation's most common causes of death:
There are multiple types of strokes, but the most common form is Ischemic Stroke, in which a blood vessel to the brain is obstructed. This accounts for 87% of all strokes. There are also Hemorrhagic Strokes, caused by a blood vessel rupturing, and Transient Ischemic Attacks, short-duration strokes without lasting damage.
Quick treatment for a stroke is invaluable -- it can not only save someone's life, but also mitigate the long-term damage done by a stroke. Strokes come on quickly, so recognizing them quickly is crucial: patients treated within 3 hours of their first symptoms typically have less disability after 3 months. To identify the warning signs of a stroke, learn the letters B.E. F.A.S.T.
B: Balance - sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
E: Eyes - sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
F: Face - facial weakness or drooping, uneven smile.
A: Arm - arm weakness or numbness, inability to raise both arms evenly.
S: Speech - slurred or impaired speech, difficulty repeating simple phrases.
T: Time - call 911 immediately if any of these symptoms are present.
These are not the only signs, but common ones. Other indicators may include sudden confusion, or sudden, severe headache.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): A Transient Ischemic Attack is frequently referred to as a mini-stroke, offering many of the same symptoms but without permanent damage, and it's a serious warning. Like many strokes, it's caused by a clot or blockage in the brain, but symptoms disappear shortly after the clot dissolves or becomes dislodged. This is no reason to ignore a TIA, though! The statistics tell a sobering story:
Many factors contribute to the likelihood of a stroke:
Those factors cannot be changed, but many lifestyle choices can contribute to risk of stroke, and that risk can be reduced:
Although stroke risk increases as we age, between 30 to 35% of hospital admissions for stroke are patients under 65. Lifestyle choices are important in mitigating your risk. Doctors recommend:
The National Stroke Association reports that if certain conditions were eliminated, the risk of stroke would be reduced by a significant amount:
Recognizing the signs of a stroke is vital, as is properly treating conditions like Transient Ischemic Attacks that may presage a future stroke, but nothing can lead to a better outcome than prevention. Adopting lifestyle changes like increased physical activity and a better diet will not only reduce your risk of stroke, it will improve all aspects of your health and well-being.