Recognize a Stroke…FAST

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In the US, stroke is a leading cause of death: one American every 40 seconds has a stroke; every three to four minutes, someone dies of stroke. It’s a leading cause of disability, with nearly 1.1 million stroke survivors reporting difficulty in performing basic activities of daily life in 2005. Most people affected are over the age of 65, but anyone can have a stroke, including children and even babies. 

Stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Medical experts generally agree that lifestyle changes can reduce our risk for stroke. According to the US National Stroke Association, 80% of strokes are preventable.

Research has shown that the majority of stroke patients do not think that they are having a stroke and so do not seek medical help until their condition worsens. The average time from the start of symptoms until arrival at the emergency room is nearly three and a half hours.

Time is crucial in treating stroke: in general the sooner a patient experiencing a stroke reaches emergency care, the more likely the stroke can be managed to prevent further damage and improve recovery.

Warning Signs Often Occur before Attack
Warning signs of an ischemic stroke may be evident as early as seven days before an attack and require urgent treatment to prevent serious brain damage. 

Eighty percent of strokes are ischemic and are often preceded by a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a “warning stroke” or “mini-stroke” that shows symptoms similar to a stroke, typically lasting less than five minutes, and not injuring the brain. The most effective treatment should be initiated within hours of a TIA in order to prevent a major attack.

Symptoms
The acronym FAST represents three symptoms of stroke.

  • F is for Face—If one side of her face won’t go up when she tries to smile, a stroke could be occurring.
  • A is for Arms—If she can’t hold both arms out to her side, that one-sided weakness could indicate a stroke.
  • S is for Speech—If she can’t repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue today,” without slurring or using the wrong words, there could be a problem.
  • T is for Time—Call 911 if any of those symptoms are present. Right then. The faster the treatment, the less chance she has of being disabled.

Habits
High blood pressure is the single most important factor for stroke. Monitoring blood pressure is vital to reduce risk. Daily habits that can help prevent a stroke include:

  • Control high blood pressure level through diet and exercise.
  • Diabetics, maintain a strict control of blood sugar levels.
  • Don’t smoke and if you do, keep trying to quit. Cigarette smoking is linked to a buildup of fatty substances in the neck artery, which can cause blockage and lead to stroke.
  • Exercise regularly and follow a healthy diet. Being overweight contributes to the stroke risk factors of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Keep an eye on stress. Make exercise or relaxation techniques a priority.

Experts have been encouraging people to be physically active for years because it lowers the risk of stroke by almost 63% depending on the intensity of the activity. To get the healthy benefits of exercise, adults need at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity activity a week, such as brisk walking, or 1 ¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity, such as jogging or swimming laps, or a combination.

To reduce the risks of stroke even further don’t ignore your diet. The biggest culprit of weight gain is eating too much—especially foods high in sugar and added fat.

A decrease in intake of 5 grams of salt a day—a little less than a teaspoon—was associated with a 23% lower rate of strokes. Excess salt intake means raised blood pressure which leads to stroke. As an individual’s salt intake goes up, so does stroke risk.

Take care of your body and it’ll take care of you in the long run!

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