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Stroke Prevention Part 1: About stroke

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023), “something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.” The lack of blood supply causes part of the brain to become damaged, ultimately impairing motor (movement-related) or cognitive (memory, problem-solving, etc) functions and resulting in long term disability or sometimes, death. 

There are two types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel becomes blocked. If the substance that blocks it comes from within the brain, it is called an EMBOLIC ischemic stroke.


If the substance that blocks the vessel comes from elsewhere in the body, it is called a THROMBOTIC ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when blood leaks from a vessel in the brain

or the vessel bursts - like in cases of a brain aneurysm. 


Additionally, an individual can experience transient ischemic attack or TIA.  A TIA is what is referred to as a “warning stroke” or a “mini stroke” that is indicative of a future stroke occurring. A TIA is a medical emergency and should be treated like a stroke as there is no way to differentiate between the beginning signs of a stroke and a TIA. If you recognize and treat TIAs, you can dramatically reduce your risk of having a major stroke.


What are the SIGNS and SYMPTOMS of a stroke?


Symptoms refer to how YOU feel and signs refer to how SOMEONE ELSE may see a condition present.


According to the CDC (2023), these are the most common SYMPTOMS of stroke:

  • Sudden one-sided numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg

  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech

  • Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes

  • Sudden difficulty walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination


The best stroke treatments are only effective within 3 hours after signs or symptoms occur. Therefore, the CDC (2023) recommends that with SIGNS of s stroke, you act F.A.S.T. 


What are risk factors for stroke?

Risk factors for acute or chronic illnesses are either modifiable or nonmodifiable. Modifiable risk factors refer to factors that can be changed with environmental, behavioral, or medical modifications. Nonmodifiable risk factors refer to factors that are genetic or that cannot be changed by making life modifications. 


Nonmodifiable risk factors for stroke include family history of stroke or the presence of genes that increase likelihood of stroke, blood clots, or other cardiac or neurological conditions (i.e. Atrial Fibrillation). Other risk factors include age, sex, and race or ethnicity. Individuals over the age of 55 years are more likely to have a stroke. Stroke is more slightly common in women than men.


Modifiable risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure and high cholesterol that can be modified by behavioral and lifestyle changes as well as pharmacological avenues. Behavioral and lifestyle changes include having a healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough proper sleep, etc. Having certain chronic illnesses increases one’s risk for stroke, therefore ensuring that these conditions are as well managed as possible will reduce the risk of stroke. These chronic conditions include diabetes, coronary artery disease, and heart disease. 


September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month AND Cholesterol Awareness Month! Join us as we dig a little deeper into these pre-existing conditions that increase the risk of stroke in the upcoming blogs this month.


Information found in this blog post is not a substitute for medical information or treatment from your doctor. 


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