May is Stroke Awareness Month & up to 80% of strokes are preventable, so it is important to understand what can be done to reduce your risk of stroke. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the brain. Your brain requires a constant flow of blood from arteries to supply it with oxygen & nutrients. A stroke occurs when an artery either becomes blocked or bursts in the brain. Due to this, the brain does not receive the blood it requires, which can harmfully impact different areas of the brain.
There are different types of stroke, including transient ischemic attack (TIA), ischemic, & hemorrhagic stroke:
- An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, occurring when an artery to the brain is blocked. This can occur when a clot or plaque travels to the brain (embolic stroke) or when a blood clot forms inside the brain (thrombotic stroke).
- A hemorrhagic stroke is due to a blood vessel bursting in the brain, which can be the result of high blood pressure or an aneurysm (a weak artery wall that can bulge into the brain).
- A transient ischemic attack, which is also known as a mini-stroke, occurs when an artery is blocked for a short time, slowing or stopping blood flow to the brain. Symptoms may last for a short time & then disappear, but this may indicate an impending stroke.
An Important Impact
A stroke can result in life-long brain damage. This can have an impact on your ability to see, talk, & control bodily functions (like your bladder or bowels). It may also cause loss of the ability to move parts of your body, like your arms or legs. If you have had a stroke, you are at a high risk of experiencing another, which is why it is important to know the symptoms, which include:
- Rapid onset of numbness on the face or one side of the body
- Sudden difficulty seeing, having trouble speaking, or a severe headache
- Trouble walking, loss of balance, or dizziness
If someone appears to be experiencing the above symptoms it is important to act FAST (see acronym below) & call 911 as treatment within the first 3 hours is critical to recovery:
F: Face – is a face droop apparent?
A: Arms – can the individual evenly raise both arms?
S: Speech – is speech slurred or inappropriate?
T: Time – Call 911 immediately!
Actions to Assist Your Arteries
It is possible to take steps to prevent a stroke, from changing your diet to your daily activities. It is important to stop smoking & only drink alcohol in moderation. Decrease your daily intake of sodium & fat, which will also help lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Visit your doctor to assess the healthiness of your heart as well as maintenance of low blood pressure. Lastly, exercise daily – even a 30-minute daily walk can help reduce your risk of stroke.
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