Stroke is a serious medical emergency that can strike anyone at anytime. According to estimates from the American Stroke Association, 795,000 people will suffer a new or recurrent stroke this year.
Each year stroke claims the lives of nearly 140,000 people making it one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In light of the obesity epidemic and an aging population, people should learn more about causes and risk factors of stroke. That is the focus of this article.
What Is A Stroke?
Stroke is caused by damage to blood vessels within the brain. There are two types of stroke - ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes, caused by accumulation of plaque deposits in blood vessels, are most common and account for 85 % of all strokes. If caught in time, ischemic stroke can be treated with medications to destroy the blood clots.
Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels burst open, spilling blood into the brain and tissue. The most common type of hemorrhagic stroke is the intracerebral (or "within brain") hemorrhage which is an accident wherein blood from a ruptured artery seeps into surrounding brain tissue.
Subarachnoid (or "below arachnoid") hemorrhage is caused by blood seeping into the cavity between brain and arachnoid membrane. Treatment for hemorrhagic stroke is limited, surgery is often performed to stop the bleeding.
What Are the Risk Factors for Stroke?
Anyone is suscepetible to stroke but the most common risk factors include:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- physical inactivity
- heart disease
- previous stroke
Interestingly, many of these stroke risk factors (obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking) maybe controlled through healthy habits i.e. proper nutrition, exercise and giving up smoking.
Preparing meals rich in lean meats, dairy, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats supply the body with the nutrients it needs while lowering cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure which contribute to stroke risk. Regular exercise strengthens the heart and cuts down on body fat thus lowering your risk of stroke.
What Are The Symptoms Of Stroke?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common stroke symptoms include:
- sudden confusion or trouble understanding or talking to other people
- sudden numbness of face, legs or arms
- sudden problems with eyesight in one or both eyes
- sudden dizziness or loss of coordination or balance
- sudden onset of severe headaches
It's important to be aware that these symptoms can occur very suddenly, if you experience any of the stroke warning signs get medical help immediately. You should also know that an absolute stroke may be preceeded by a transient ischemic attack ("TIA") or mini stroke.
If you experience stroke symptoms that don't resolve within a few minutes after onset, health experts advise you to get medical attention right away.
Why You Should Take Stroke Seriously
Strokes kill brain cells. If cells are deprived of oxygen beyond a critical period, they may suffer irreparable damage or death. Stroke can rob the body of abilities that you often take for granted.
For example, stroke can lead to paralysis, loss of cognition, speech and the ability to express or control your emotions. Some stroke survivors must re-learn how to dress, clean and feed themselves. Others must undergo physical and occupational therapy to regain use of certain motor functions. Stroke should never be taken lightly.
If you have any of the risk factors for stroke, talk to your doctor about stroke prevention.
The CDC has produced a nifty handout with facts about stroke. Give it a read, the information could be of great use to you and your family.
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American Stroke Association. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/
"What You Need To Know About Stroke Symptoms" copyright 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.