Stroke, in a medical sense, is a word almost everybody has heard of, and many of us even know someone who has suffered from one. But for many, our knowledge of stroke ends there. What is a stroke? How does it happen? Could it happen to me or someone I love?
The name itself is even mysterious. “Heart attack” leaves no guesses as to what part of the body is afflicted. The aptly named “kidney stones” are just that – hard masses in the kidneys. But the name “stroke” tells us nothing about what is happening in what part of our body.
When the average person is asked what a stroke is, the answer goes roughly like this: “Something to do with blood vessels in the brain.”They’re not wrong. But they’re not entirely right. A stroke occurs when blood vessels that carry vital oxygen and nutrients to the brain either become blocked by a clot or rupture. With no viable vessel to carry the blood and much-needed oxygen, the brain cells die.
What does it feel like when this happens? Can we even feel a stroke? With so many questions, we knew we needed to consult a professional, so we directed our questions to Dr. Mohammed Al-Qasmi, a vascular neurologist at Hurley Medical Center’s Primary Stroke Center. With over 14 years of experience dealing with stroke patients, Dr. Al-Qasmi had the answers to our questions. Dr. Al-Qasmi stressed the importance of early intervention if a stroke is suspected. He said the first thing to do if you think someone is having a stroke is to follow the BE FAST method. The earlier the treatment, the lower the chances of damage to the brain, so follow these steps if you suspect a stroke in yourself or someone else:
Balance – Have them walk and see if they are off-balance or staggering
Eyes – Ask if their vision is blurry or out-of-the-ordinary
Face – Smile and see if one side of the face droops
Arms – Raise both arms and see if one arm drops down
Speech – Have the person say a simple short phrase and check for slurred or strange speech
Time – If the answer to any of these is yes, call 911 right away and write down what the symptoms are and when they started
Seconds matter! Don’t waste any time in a stroke situation. Aside from the BE FAST test, common signs of a stroke are numbness, confusion, slurred speech, vision disturbances, trouble walking, and a sudden, severe headache.
• Numbness- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
• Confusion- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding others
• Slurred speech- Difficulty speaking or slurring of speech
• Vision disturbances- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Trouble walking- Problems walking or staying balanced or coordinated
• Headache- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause, sometimes accompanied by dizziness
When should I call 911?
If you are having these symptoms, call 911. You can’t always be sure you’re having a stroke, but you know when something is not right with your body. It’s better to play it safe and err on the side of caution.
Is a stroke preventable?
According to the American Stroke Association, up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by opting for healthy choices.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke, and therefore, the most important risk factor to keep a close eye on. Through diet, exercise, visits with your doctor, and possibly medications, keeping your blood pressure at or around 120/80 is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of stroke. People with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, are five times more likely to suffer a stroke. Work with your doctor to keep your AFib under control, and you will greatly reduce your risk of stroke.
Having diabetes more than doubles your stroke risk. Working with your doctor to manage your diabetes is an important part of lowering your risk.
High cholesterol increases the risk of blocked arteries everywhere in the body, including the brain. If you have high cholesterol, work with your doctor to lower your cholesterol and lower your stroke risk.
Smoking damages blood vessels. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Keep a healthy weight. Lose weight if necessary. Eat a healthy diet and stay active.
“Be healthy with your food. Be healthy with your activities,” said Dr. Al-Qasmi. “Studies have shown that those who exercise twenty to thirty minutes three times a week, the risk for stroke is much less. Even if you are sitting on your chair and just moving your legs, that is a form of activity. That’s better than nothing.”
Strokes are mysterious and can come on suddenly. But the more we understand about how to prevent them and how to recognize the signs of a stroke, the more lives we can save. And if we can BE FAST, the next life we save could be our own.
- Stroke is the number 5 cause of death in the US
- 80% of strokes are preventable
- People with diabetes are 1.5 times more likely to have a stroke
- Stroke kills about 140,000 American each year, that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths
- Someone in the US has a stroke every 40 seconds+Every 4 minutes someone dies of a stroke+*ASA+CDC
By Jennifer Boice Kudos Magazine 5.4