When it comes to stroke, knowing your risk factors, recognizing symptoms and acting quickly can save you from death or permanent disability.
“Stroke, until recently, has been the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States,” said John M. Whapham, MD, MS, FSNIS, medical director of Stroke and Endovascular Neurosugery at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center. “A stroke occurs when there is a sudden loss of blood flow to part of the brain. This is caused by a blockage, rupture, or injury of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Someone in our country experiences a stroke every 45 seconds. Too often people do not recognize when a stroke is happening, losing critical time.”
Time lost is brain lost. In fact, 32,000 brain cells die in one second of blood loss/blockage, and 1.9 million cells die in the first minute of blood loss. It is crucial to recognize the signs of a stroke, and call 911 or get to the emergency room immediately.
“Stroke Centers, such as the one at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, offer treatment that may reduce the risk of damage from the most common types of strokes,” Dr. Whapham said. “However, medical treatment options are available only within three hours of the patient’s initial symptoms at most, with an extended window of time available at centers offering neuro-endovascular procedures.
“Neuro-endovascular treatment, which we offer at St. V’s, offers a minimally invasive alternative to traditional neurosurgery,” he said. “Various minimally invasive clot retrieval devices and intra-arterial infusions can extend the time frame for effective treatment and improve outcomes for stroke patients.”
Timing and proper treatment can mean the difference between life and death, recovery and disability.
Warning signs of a stroke include:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs, especially on one side.
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking and/or understanding.
• Sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
• Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or dizziness.
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Stroke symptoms can appear the day of or even days before a stroke. Listen to your body, and contact your doctor about any potential stroke symptoms. It is important not only to monitor our own health but also that of those around you.
Just as it is important to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, you also should learn about your risk factors. Research has shown that you can reduce your stroke risk by living a healthy lifestyle. It is believed that 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
Take charge of your health and prevent stroke by:
• Controlling high blood pressure.
• Not smoking.
• Eating a low fat, low cholesterol diet.
• Being physically active.
• Maintaining a healthy body weight.
• Drinking alcohol minimally or not at all.
• Managing diabetes.
Talk to your doctor today about your risk factors for stroke and what you can do to control them.