This post is part of a series during the month of May to help spread awareness of the signs and symptoms of a Stroke. May is National Stroke Awareness month, please share this information with your loved ones. One Call Alert is an industry leading medical alert service provider that can help save a life in the event of a stroke. With just the push of a button, a professionally trained emergency operator will be on the line to help you get the care that you need. This post is by Erin Rumelhart for the Missoulian. It was originally published April 2, 2013. Erin Rumelhart is a registered nurse and clinical nurse manager at St. Patrick Hospital.
Stroke is a medical emergency. Stroke can leave a person with significant health challenges, affecting mobility, speech and other functions. Anyone with a loved one who has had a stroke knows how difficult these challenges can be. Stroke is caused by a lack of blood flow to a region of the brain, either from a blood clot or from bleeding in the brain. Anyone can have a stroke regardless of age, race or gender. In fact, we think of stroke as an event of the elderly, however, 19 percent of all strokes occur among persons younger than 55 years old, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Many factors can increase one’s risk for stroke. Some risk factors are modifiable – we can do something about them – and other risk factors are not modifiable.
Here is a review of modifiable risk factors to help decrease the risk of stroke:
• Hypertension. High blood pressure (over 135/85) is the most dominant and easiest risk factor to address. Keep your blood pressure under control by changing your diet, exercise and medication. For more detail, see stroke.ahajournals.org/content/31/11/2751.full.
• Atrial fibrillation. This irregular heart rhythm increases your risk for clots. Having clots increases the risk for stroke. If you have atrial fibrillation, talk with your health provider about decreasing the risk for clots.
• Smoking. Smoking doubles your stroke risk. If you smoke, stop. Smoking cessation information and classes are available.
• Diabetes. Having diabetes makes you more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, which can result in stroke. Keep your diabetes well controlled through diet, lifestyle management and medication.
• High cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can affect your risk for a transient ischemic attack or stroke. Know your cholesterol levels. Diet, exercise and cholesterol-lowering medications will reduce your cholesterol levels and risk for stroke.
• Overweight. Being overweight predisposes you to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which can result in stroke. If you are overweight, modify your diet limit your intake of fatty foods, and exercise.
• Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise can contribute to being overweight, which, in turn, leads to a risk of stroke.
• Excessive alcohol use. Excessive alcohol consumption narrows blood vessels and increases triglycerides. Excessive alcohol use is defined as drinking more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Contact your primary care provider to discuss options to lower your risk for stroke if any of the above applies to you. Often medication and lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk for stroke.
Time is brain. The quicker you are treated, the greater chance you have for full recovery. Your treatment will depend on which type of stroke you are having, that needs to be determined in a hospital emergency department.
Call 9-1-1 immediately or go to the emergency department if you have:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding others. • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
• Sudden severe headache with no known cause. Preventing a stroke is the best thing you can do. The second best is early intervention if you or a loved one has symptoms of a stroke. Early intervention leads to improved outcomes and less permanent disability. To find your stroke risk, fill out the Stroke Risk Scorecard at the National Stroke Association at stroke.org.