Be Aware! Know the Signs of a #Stroke!

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May is Stroke Awareness Month.  A stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die. A stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). A TIA (transient ischemic attack), or “mini stroke”, is caused by a temporary clot. The brain is an extremely complex organ that controls various body functions.  If a stroke occurs and blood flow can’t reach the region that controls a particular body function, that part of the body won’t work as it should. 

Knowing the Risk Factors is an important step. Risk factors that we cannot change include: 

  • Age — The chance of having a stroke approximately doubles for each decade of life after age 55. While stroke is common among the elderly, a lot of people under 65 also have strokes.
  • Heredity (family history) — Your stroke risk may be greater if a parent, grandparent, sister or brother has had a stroke. 
  • Race — African-Americans (opens in new window) have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do. This is partly because blacks have higher risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
  • Sex (gender) — Each year, women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men. Use of birth control pills, pregnancy, history of preeclampsia/eclampsia or gestational diabetes, oral contraceptive use, and smoking, and post-menopausal hormone therapy may pose special stroke risks for women. Be sure to discuss your specific risks with your doctor.
  • Prior stroke, TIA or heart attack — The risk of stroke for someone who has already had one is many times that of a person who has not. Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are “warning strokes” that produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage. TIAs are strong predictors of stroke. A person who’s had one or more TIAs is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn’t. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce your risk of a major stroke. TIA should be considered a medical emergency and followed up immediately with a healthcare professional. If you’ve had a heart attack, you’re at higher risk of having a stroke, too.

Risk Factors that can be changed controlled or treated:

  • High blood pressure — High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. Many people believe the effective treatment of high blood pressure is a key reason for the accelerated decline in the death rates for stroke.
  • Cigarette smoking — In recent years, studies have shown cigarette smoking to be an important risk factor for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system in many ways. The use of oral contraceptives combined with cigarette smoking greatly increases stroke risk.
  • Diabetes mellitus — Diabetes is an independent risk factor for stroke.  Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight. This increases their risk even more. While diabetes is treatable, the presence of the disease still increases your risk of stroke.
  • Carotid or other artery disease — The carotid arteries in your neck supply blood to your brain. A carotid artery narrowed by fatty deposits from atherosclerosis (plaque buildups in artery walls) may become blocked by a blood clot. Carotid artery disease is also called carotid artery stenosis.  
  • Peripheral artery disease is the narrowing of blood vessels carrying blood to leg and arm muscles. It’s caused by fatty buildups of plaque in artery walls. People with peripheral artery disease have a higher risk of carotid artery disease, which raises their risk of stroke.
  • Atrial fibrillation — This heart rhythm disorder raises the risk for stroke. The heart’s upper chambers quiver instead of beating effectively, which can let the blood pool and clot. If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results.
  • Other heart disease — People with coronary heart disease or heart failure have a higher risk of stroke than those with hearts that work normally. Dilated cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart), heart valve disease and some types of congenital heart defects also raise the risk of stroke.
  • Sickle cell disease (also called sickle cell anemia) — This is a genetic disorder that mainly affects African-American and Hispanic children. “Sickled” red blood cells are less able to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs. These cells also tend to stick to blood vessel walls, which can block arteries to the brain and cause a stroke.
  • High blood cholesterol — People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke. Also, it appears that low HDL (“good”) cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke in men, but more data are needed to verify its effect in women.
  • Poor diet — Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium (salt) can contribute to increased blood pressure. Diets with excess calories can contribute to obesity. Also, a diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may reduce the risk of stroke (PDF opens in new window).
  • Physical inactivity and obesity — Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So go on a brisk walk, take the stairs, and do whatever you can to make your life more active. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days.

Be Prepared Know the Signs & Symptoms and Act F.A.S.T:

THINK YOU ARE HAVING A STROKE? CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY!

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you’ll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F.A.S.T. is:

F Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
A Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Beyond F.A.S.T. – Other Symptoms You Should Know

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face
  • Sudden confusion or trouble 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

If someone shows any of these symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1 or emergency.  Please visit the National Stroke Association at http://www.stroke.org or American Heart Association for additional information at http://www.strokeassociation.org or http://www.heart.org for additional information.  Remember to act #F.A.S.T!

About Hands of Compassion

Hands of Compassion, a Medicare certified, CHAP accredited, repeat Homecare Elite Top Agency recipient, and provides compassionate care to qualified elderly and disabled persons. Services provided include: Skilled Nursing, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Home Health Aides and Companions. They serve 18 counties in the West Texas area. For the last 5 years Hands of Compassion was recognized by Homecare Elite, ocshomecare.com, which ranked them Top Agency for Positive Patient Outcomes in the nation. “Healthcare that unites hands with hearts.”

Contact Hands of Compassion Home Care serving West Texas at (432) 218-7996 or visit HOC’s website atwww.hochomecare.com. #GOHOCGO #NURSESROCK #BESTHOMEHEALTHHOC Logo png

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