Stroke, sometimes called a “brain attack” or cerebrovascular disease, is the second leading cause of death worldwide and the third in the United States, killing approximately 137,000 people each year. Though many individuals recover from strokes, at least two-thirds of survivors experience some type of disability. A reported 80 percent of strokes are preventable, and by increasing awareness about stroke prevention and treatment, it may be possible to improve individuals’ recovery.
Individuals with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, those over 55 years of age or who have a family history of stroke, and those who smoke or use alcohol are at an increased risk of having a stroke. Though stroke predominantly occurs in middle-aged and older individuals, in recent years an increase in the number of young people affected by stroke has been seen. According to experts, this may be due in part to an increase in the incidence of obesity worldwide.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or when a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow in an area of the brain. Approximately 87 percent of strokes are Ischemic, meaning that they are caused by a gradual build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits or blood clots which block arteries so that blood cannot be delivered to the heart. In the case of Ischemic stroke, clot-busting medications must be administered as quickly as possible to improve the patient’s chances of survival and minimize the potential of complications. In contrast, Hemorrhagic strokes, which account for 13 percent of all strokes but more than 30 percent of stroke-related death, occur when blood vessels in the brain burst, leaking blood into the brain. For individuals experiencing Hemorrhagic stroke, emergency treatment focuses on controlling bleeding and may involve surgery to repair the broken blood vessel. In addition to the medications commonly used for stroke treatment, new research suggests that a drug derived from turmeric, CNB-001, may be able to help the body repair some of the damaged caused in the immediate aftermath of a stroke.
By depriving brain cells of oxygenated blood, strokes kill off brain cells and trigger a chain reaction that can widen the damaged area and increase the level of disability suffered by the patient. Because the risk of brain damage increases the longer a stroke goes untreated, experts suggest using the F.A.S.T. test to quickly determine if an individual has had a stroke. The procedure for the F.A.S.T. test is as follows:
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the speech slurred?
- Time: If any signs are observed, call 9-1-1 immediately or seek medical attention.
The most common symptom of a stroke is sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, most frequently on one side of the body. Individuals may also experience confusion, difficulty speaking and understanding speech, difficulty seeking with one or both eyes, dizziness, or severe headache with no known cause.
By increasing awareness about the risk factors that contribute to stroke and encouraging individuals to make healthier lifestyle choices, it may be possible to lessen the chances of its occurrence. In addition, providing information about how to determine if an individual is having a stroke can help ensure that those who do will receive life-saving treatment more quickly.
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