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Editorial

Around Our Town...To Your Health


What is a stroke and what are the symptoms?


05/01/2006 - Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America and the number 1 cause of adult disability. What is a stroke? A stroke, also called a "brain attack", occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. This can be caused either by a blockage of the blood flow, an ischemic stroke, or when a blood vessel breaks, a hemorrhagic stroke.

When either an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke occurs, the part of the brain that is supplied blood (and oxygen) by the effected vessel will start to die. As the brain cells die the functions that are controlled by that area of the brain are affected and can be lost. These can include speech, movement or memory. Depending on where a stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is affected determines how much the stroke victim will be affected. Two-thirds of stroke survivors will experience some type of disability related to their stroke ranging from arm or leg weakness to paralysis or loss of ability to speak.

A stroke can strike anyone. But your chances of having a stroke increase if you have certain uncontrollable risk factors. These include age over 55, male and a family history of stroke. However, 80% of all strokes are preventable. There are a few guidelines that can help reduce your risk of a stroke is followed. These are: 1) know your blood pressure, 2) find out if you have atrial fibrillation, 3) if you smoke, stop, 4) if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation, 5) find out if you have high cholesterol, 6) consult your physician about beginning an exercise program 7) eat a low sodium/lower fat diet, 8) know the symptoms of stroke. The National Stroke Association recommends seeing your doctor for advice on how best to use these guidelines.

A stroke is a medical emergency. Knowing the warning signs of stroke are important, they include:

sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience symptoms! Time lost is brain lost!

For more information on stroke, stroke prevention and recovery please contact the National Stroke Association at 1-800-STROKES or www.stroke.org. and the American Stroke Association at 1-800-478-7653 or www.strokeassociation.org.

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