Stroke: What you need to know
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is preventable.
What is a stroke?
Your brain needs oxygen to function; a stroke interferes with blood flow that supplies oxygen to the brain. A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. An ischemic stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is blocked due to blood clots or fatty deposits called plaques. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel in the brain bursts; the build-up of blood around the brain causes damage to surrounding brain tissue.
Consequences of stroke can include: paralysis or loss of muscle movement, difficulty talking or swallowing, memory loss or thinking difficulties, emotional problems, pain, changes in behavior and self-care ability. Each case of stroke is unique and each person will have an individual response to treatment.
Recognizing and reacting to a stroke
Time matters when you have a stroke. The faster oxygen can be returned to the brain; the less damage occurs. The American Stroke Association emphasizes that recognizing a stroke and getting help fast is a matter of both life and death and can be the difference between a full recovery or long-term disability. It is critical to understand the symptoms of stroke and to act quickly.
Use the acronym “F.A.S.T.” to help identify if someone is having a stroke and get help
F: Face drooping – does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Is a smile lopsided?
A: Arm weakness – is one arm weak or numb? If both arms are raised does one drift downward?
S: Speech difficulty – is speech slurred? Is a person unable to speak or repeat a simple sentence?
T: Time to call 911 – if someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away. Call 911 and say “I think this is a stroke.” Note the time when the symptoms first appeared.
How to prevent stroke
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is preventable. In fact, they state that “up to 80 percent of strokes could be prevented through healthy lifestyle interventions and working with your health care team to control health conditions that raise your risk for stroke.”
Health conditions that increase the risk of stroke include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. If you have heart disease, it is also important to treat it and take your medicine. Work with your health care team to manage your health conditions and minimize your chance of stroke.
- Eating a nutritious diet by following the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight – work with your doctor to find a healthy target weight.
- Being physical active – try following the latest recommendations from the CDC on physical activity.
- Not smoking – do not start smoking or keep trying to quit.
- Not drinking too much alcohol – drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and the risk of stroke; it is suggested that men have no more than two drinks per day and women have no more than one drink a day.
You can also utilize community resources to help you follow a healthy lifestyle and reduce your risk of stroke. To learn more, visit Michigan State University Extension. MSU Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating and well-being.