Since May is National Stroke Awareness Month, we wanted to make sure our readers and subscribers know how to avoid a stroke, the way to recognize when it happens, and what to do.
Facts about Stroke
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, causing brain tissue to die. Pretty scary stuff. A stroke often starts as a sudden feeling of numbness or weakness on half of the body. Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 Americans each year. On average, one American dies from stroke every four minutes. There are two types of stroke, both of which can cause brain cells to die quickly. An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke. Although dogs don’t have the same types of strokes that humans do, they can suffer the loss of movement when microscopic pieces of cartilage and fibrous tissue develop in the body and break off, blocking blood flow to the spinal column.
A “mini-stroke,” or transient ischemic attack (TIA), occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted only briefly. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Despite the fact that the risk of stroke increases with age, strokes can occur at any age, In fact, one-third of people hospitalized for stroke in 2006 were younger than age 65.
Facts about Strokes
- On average, one American dies from stroke every four minutes.
- Each year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.
- About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.
- About 185,000 strokes—nearly one of four—strike people who have had a previous stroke.
- About 87% of all strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked.
- Stroke costs the U.S. an estimated $36.5 billion each year. (This includes the cost of health care services, medications and missed days of work.)
- Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.
- Bacon. (This has nothing to do with strokes. But I can’t pass up the opportunity to mention my favorite food.)
How to Prevent a Stroke
Although nothing can definitively prevent stroke, you can significantly reduce your risk factors by adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes:
- Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. I hope this doesn’t mean I have to cut out bacon.
- Avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Uh-oh.
- Add fiber-rich foods to your daily routine.
- Limit sodium intake.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your Body Mass Index on the CDC website.
- Stay physically active. Adults should engage in moderate intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- If you smoke, stop. If you don’t smoke—don’t start. Cigarette smoking greatly increases the risk of stroke.
- Limit alcohol use. Women should have no more than one drink per day; men no more than two drinks per day. Dogs should avoid alcohol altogether.
- Prevent and/or treat medical conditions.
- Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol at least once every five years.
- Monitor and control your blood pressure.
- If you have diabetes or are at risk for developing it, closely monitor your blood sugar levels.
Symptoms of Stroke—and What to Do
If you think you are having a stroke, call 911 immediately! Patients who arrive at an emergency room within three hours of the onset of their first symptoms tend to be healthier three months following a stroke than those whose care was delayed.
The five most common signs and symptoms of stroke are sudden:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg.
- Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination.
- Severe headache with no known cause. Cats give me migraines.
To help identify symptoms of stroke, the National Stroke Association has come up with an acronym: FAST
Time to call 9-1-1
For more information about preventing and/or treating strokes, check out these websites:
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