Stroke: A Threat to Everyone?

As the greatest cause of disability in the United States, stroke is a threat that everyone should be aware of. It is easy to think that we are too young or too healthy to worry about a stroke, but the truth is, EVERYONE has some risk for having a stroke. The key is to know what your risk factors are, and do what you can to minimize those risk factors. The thought that strokes only happen to older people is wrong. It is true that as we get older our risk goes up, but children can have strokes, teenagers can have a stroke, and YOUcan have a stroke.

First, know your enemy. A stroke happens when brain cells die due to insufficient blood supply. That can be because of a clot blocking a blood vessel, ischemic stroke, or because a blood vessel has leaked causing bleeding in or around the brain, hemorrhagic stroke. Unlike the majority of our other cells, brain cells don’t regrow very well, so damage that occurs doesn’t heal. Instead, after a stroke, the functions of the parts that are damaged have to be taken up by other parts, if possible. Meaning the larger the stroke, the harder it is to recover. The good news is that there are treatments available that can make a stroke much milder or even stop it completely, but you have to know to call 9-1-1 and get help at a dedicated Stroke Center as fast as possible – TIME IS BRAIN!

When someone is having a stroke, the part that is affected stops working, so they could lose their ability to talk, walk, understand, use their arms, or any other sudden inability to do something that they could normally do. When this happens, it is important that they get help F-A-S-T!

F-A-S-T is also an acronym to help remember this:

  • F is for facial droop on one side or another
  • A is for arm weakness or leg weakness
  • S is for speech problems
  • T stands for time to call 9-1-1

The best kind of stroke is the one that never happens so YOU should know YOUR risk factors.

Some things are out of your hands but you should be aware of them like family history of stroke – if your mother, father, sister or brother had a stroke, your chances of having one goes up. Focus on the things you can control like your blood pressure – if you have high blood pressure, you can be on medicine to lower it. If your cholesterol is high, you may need medicine for that as well. And you should be on medicine if you have an irregular heart beat known as atrial fibrillation or “a-fib”.

You should not drink alcohol in excess and you should NEVER smoke! Exercise is just as good for your brain as it is for your heart and you should be as physically active as you can. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for stroke and how to make the right choices. But always remember that if you think someone is having a stroke, think F-A-S-T and get them to your closest dedicated Stroke Center!