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Lifestyle changes can reduce the change of stroke

Nearly 800,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke, about 20% of which are fatal. While most strokes affect older people, it can occur at any age.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, and starts to die. This can result in paralysis, vision loss, memory loss, speech and language problems, and behavioral changes. The common risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity, along with not being compliant in taking prescribed medication.

F.A.S.T. is a good way to remember the signs and symptoms of stroke. With stroke, every minute counts. This acronym stands for Face, which will appear to droop and show an uneven smile during a stroke; Arms, which often will become numb and/or weak; Speech, which can be slurred or difficult to understand; and Time, which is key, with 911 needing to be called at the first sign.

The effects of a stroke depend on the location of the obstruction and the extent of brain tissue affected. Since one side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body, a stroke on the brain’s right side, for example, will affect the left side of the body (and right side of the face).

A patient suffering from a stroke must be treated within three to four-and-a-half hours with tPA, a medication that breaks up clots. This makes recognizing the signs imperative, so  that proper medical attention can be given quickly.

Often, ignoring a headache or mild weakness can be fatal. Here’s a look at the most common symptoms of stroke:

  • A severe headache (Does it feel different than a typical headache? Do sounds make their headache worse? Does light bother their eyes?)
  • Speech that is slurred (Are there problems getting words out? Does one side of the mouth droop? Does it sound like they have something in their mouth?)
  • A problem with balance (Do they slump to one side? Is strength lost on one side of the body? Are they dragging a foot on the side they are leaning toward?)
  • One sign of the body feels weak or numb (Can they raise both their arms up together? Can they hold a pen? Can they feel a touch on their arm?)
  • A vision problem (Do they have blurry or double vision? Has there been a change in vision?)

Hospitals will immediately test patients they believe are having a stroke, as treatment must begin immediately in order to be effective. Stay educated and know what signs to look for so you can remain healthy.

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