Don’t Let Stroke Strike You Out
Could you be heading for a stroke? Maybe—if you’re overly stressed, overweight or inactive—because these are just a few of the risk factors that could be setting you up for the biggest fall of your life.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is interrupted or severely reduced. Brain cells begin to die within minutes.
There are three main types of stroke: transient ischemic attack (TIA), ischemic and hemorrhagic.
A TIA occurs when a clot temporarily blocks an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Some doctors say this is a ministroke or a warning.
An ischemic stroke happens when a blood clot keeps blood from flowing to your brain. About 85 percent of all strokes in the United States are ischemic.
Sudden bleeding in the brain can result in a hemorrhagic stroke. This happens when a blood vessel in your brain breaks or ruptures, causing bleeding. This bleeding can cause swelling and pressure that damage brain cells and tissues.
So what can you do to help make sure stroke isn’t in your future?
- Long-term stress can increase your chance for heart disease and stroke. One way to curb stress is to step back and look at the stressors in your life. Is it your job? Figure out what you can do to rid yourself of the duties that are causing you excess stress. If you can’t, maybe it’s time to look for a new job. Just as important as identifying the stressors in your life is developing coping mechanisms that can help you release unwanted stress. What relaxes you? Perhaps it’s a good book and a hot bath—maybe a long walk, your pet or a hearty laugh with friends.
- High blood pressure is actually the most significant risk factor for stroke. You might have high blood pressure and not even know it. For this reason, it’s not a bad idea to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor. If you do have high blood pressure, monitor it and work with your doctor to control it.
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle can be another major contributor. Don’t watch life, live it! And, if you’re overweight, do what you can to shed and keep off those unwanted pounds. Look at your current eating habits and set achievable goals. Then reward yourself for small successes.
- Also, pay attention to what your body might be trying to tell you. For instance, some people may have a TIA. While TIAs don’t cause disability or permanent brain damage, one in three people who have a TIA will have a stroke. The signs of a TIA are the same as those found early in a stroke. If you have sudden changes in vision, a severe headache, trouble speaking or understanding what’s being said, loss of balance, tingling, weakness or numbness on one side on the body or face, see your doctor immediately. These symptoms can last as little as a minute and can completely disappear by the time you see your doctor, so it’s important to do your best to describe what occurred.
- Other risk factors for a TIA and stroke include high cholesterol, heavy drinking, use of illicit drugs, oral contraceptives, diabetes and smoking. In fact tobacco use increases the risk for stroke. It can damage your heart and blood vessels, raise your blood pressure, and reduce the amount of oxygen your blood can carry. Even if you don’t smoke, breathing in other people’s secondhand smoke can make you more likely to have a stroke.
- Other risk factors, such as family history, age, gender, race and sickle cell disease can’t be controlled.
Bottom line—if you see the following signs of a stroke, it is an emergency.
Just remember FAST:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to Call 911.
By knowing what to look for and acting quickly, you can lessen the long-term effects of stroke and maybe even save a life.