About 700,000 Americans will have a new or recurrent stroke this year. Many people mistakenly think of strokes as only affecting the elderly, but 25 percent of all strokes occur in those under age 65. Not only is stroke the third-leading cause of death among Americans, it is also a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.
What is a stroke?
Also called a brain attack, a stroke is as serious as a heart attack. It most often occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked by a clot. The brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they are prevented from receiving the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. There are two kinds of stroke, each with a different cause. In an ischemic stroke – the most common type – a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain.
Some risk factors are genetically determined, while others are the result of certain lifestyle choices.
The most common risk factors include:
Signs and symptoms
One or more of the following symptoms may signal a stroke:
It is important to recognize that there are other conditions that may imitate a stroke, such as brain tumors, brain abscesses, migraines, meningitis, an overdose of certain medicines, or an imbalance of sodium, calcium and/or glucose in the body. Only a medical professional can properly diagnose a stroke. To do so, he or she will likely perform an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), along with monitoring vital signs and taking blood. Other procedures such as CT scans, MRIs or angiograms may also be used.
The most common forms of stroke treatment include a tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), an intravenous drug that dissolves blood clots; blood-thinning drugs such as heparin and aspirin; and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and/or diabetes under control. If the stroke was serious, a patient may need to undergo rehabilitation to re-learn how to speak and walk.
Know the controllable risk factors and focus on making any necessary lifestyle changes you can. For example:
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional. © 2007-2008, 2014 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.
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