Know the warning signs
Strokes have unfortunately been receiving much attention lately because of the untimely deaths of celebrities John Singleton and Luke Perry. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, so it’s an appropriate time to study up on your stroke knowledge and decrease your risk.
Strokes are one of the leading causes of death for men and women in the United States. But there is some good news—they are treatable and up to 80 percent of them are preventable.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, the brain cannot get the blood (and therefore the oxygen) it needs, so it starts to die.
Be on the alert for the following signs and symptoms which could indicate a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack). With a TIA or “ministroke,” the symptoms resolve; whereas in a full blown stroke, the symptoms persist.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden, severe headache (“Worst headache of my life”) with no known cause.
Risk factors and Prevention: Lifestyle, Heredity and History
Any two of these factors put you at a higher risk for stroke:
- Heart disease
- Previous stroke/TIA
- Family history
- Excessive alcohol use
- Sickle cell anemia
The best way to treat a stroke is to prevent it. It’s important to have regular check-ups with your physician to discuss your health status. After all, you can’t manage a risk factor if you don’t know you have it! No matter your health history, follow these tenets to stay healthy and possibly keep stroke at bay:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthful diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, low-fat and low-cholesterol foods.
- Limit or stop alcohol consumption.
- Do not smoke.
Get care quickly
The most important thing to remember about stroke is that quick help could save your life. A stroke is a brain attack, and just like a heart attack, it is an emergency. If you, or someone around you, shows symptoms of a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. The window for administering clot-reducing medications is three to four and half hours. Do not wait for symptoms to go away. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Robert A. Collins (Alek) is the Neuroscience Coordinator for Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, where he has been employed since 2008. He has worked in the ICU and with the Stroke Team. He has earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (B.S.N.) from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. and is a Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN). He welcomes all questions and is available to speak to interested groups about stroke care and prevention. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .