May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Most strokes can be prevented

Can you spot the warning signs of a stroke? Learn them and you could save a life — maybe even your own!

Why is stroke prevention and recognition important? Because it’s the 5th-leading cause of death in the U.S., occurring in 800,000 individuals annually. It is also the leading cause of long-term adult disability, with half of all global stroke survivors being permanently disabled, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Women carry a 7% higher risk, mainly because they live longer and overall risk doubles every decade past the age of 65. Additionally, some form of reduced mobility occurs in half of all patients over age 65 who experience a stroke.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes occur in the brain, when a blood clot blocks an artery (ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel breaks (hemorrhagic stroke), both of which interrupt blood flow. As that part of the brain loses circulation, the lack of oxygen from the blood causes the brain cells surrounding the affected area to die. The severity and impact depends on which part of the brain it occurs in, and can include physical/mobility problems, loss of speech and/or memory, and emotional changes. And the costs are high – even beyond the lost quality of life, $33 billion is spent annually for treatment in our country, according to the American Heart association.

Take Steps to Prevent

But the most startling statistic is how many strokes are preventable – 80 percent. Many risk factors can be reduced or minimized with simple, common-sense lifestyle choices. To reduce your chances, as well as improve your overall health, Oxford recommends several basic steps;

  • Choose a Nutritious Diet
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Make time for Physical Activity
  • Quit Smoking Now
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption

Strokes are classified as a result of heart disease, so patients should also address any other coexisting conditions to further reduce their risk. These include regular cholesterol checks, controlling blood pressure, managing diabetes, treating other heart diseases, taking all prescribed medications and working with your doctor and health care team.

Recognize the Signs

How do you know if you’re having a stroke? Symptoms can be anything from a sudden, severe headache in a specific area, to a loss of vision or balance. The American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association have developed a list of four warning signs to determine a person is potentially having a stroke.

  • FACEFAST - Stroke warning signs
    An eye, mouth or cheek appears to sag on only one side of the face
  • ARM
    Weakness on one side of the body that has no other apparent cause
  • SPEECH
    Speech suddenly becomes jumbled, slurry, or slow
  • TIME
    If a person has one or more symptoms, act quickly and call 911 to get emergency medical help.

Make sure to note what time the symptoms began, since early treatment is critical to minimizing long-term damage and impairment. Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first stroke symptoms have less disability 90 days afterward than someone who receives delayed care, according to the CDC.

Even More Resources

There is still life to be lived after a stroke, even if you have experienced permanent damage. Physical, occupational and speech therapy can help you regain the maximum possible mobility and minimize the negative impacts. Additionally, a qualified home care team like Oxford HealthCare can help stroke patients maintain their independence during and after treatment. For additional resources on maximizing your recovery from a stroke, visit the American Stroke Association online.