Few medical conditions are more severe or dangerous than stroke. It’s the fifth leading cause of death in America, and it’s also one of the most common causes of long-term disability.
There’s plenty to learn about the causes of and risk factors for stroke, but these are the five most important things you need to know right now:
Stroke Claims the Lives of 140,000 Americans Every Year
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke claims the lives of about 140,000 people in the United States per year. The CDC also estimates that stroke accounts for one out of every 20 deaths in America.
There Are Two Main Types of Stroke
A stroke occurs when something blocks the supply of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. When that happens, it causes damage to parts of the brain, depending on the severity of the stroke. Here are the two main types of stroke:
Ischemic Stroke – This is the type of stroke that happens when blood flow and, as a result, the oxygen supply to the brain becomes blocked — often because of a blood clot. It’s estimated that nearly 90% of all strokes are of this type.
Hemorrhagic Stroke – This type of stroke occurs when an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures, which puts pressure on and damages brain cells.
Nearly 25% of Strokes Occur Among Stroke Survivors
While there are a variety of health conditions, behaviors, and genetic characteristics that can increase a person’s risk, one of the most prominent factors in a person’s stroke risk is whether or not they’ve had a stroke before.
The CDC estimates that about one out of every four cases of stroke occurs among people who have had a previous stroke.
You don’t have to be a victim of a full ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke to be at greater risk, either. In fact, there’s a third type of stroke, known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). While TIAs are very serious medical emergencies just like major strokes are, these “mini-strokes” are characterized by a blockage of blood flow to the brain that only lasts for a short time. As a result, TIAs are often considered warning signs for a future stroke.
Most Strokes are Preventable
Stroke is something that is largely preventable by making healthy choices in your life. This is especially important to understand if you have any of the following conditions:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Certain heart conditions
High blood pressure is one of the most prevalent conditions in Americans, so it’s even more important for everyone to keep an eye on their blood pressure to ensure it stays within a healthy range. Check out this video to learn more.
With all that in mind, here are some things you can do to reduce your level of risk:
- Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Engage in physical activity regularly
- Don’t smoke
- Limit your alcohol intake
Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about how healthy lifestyle choices can improve your overall well-being and limit your risk for stroke.
Every Second Counts During a Stroke
The potential for long-term disability or even death as a result of a stroke is high, which means there’s no time to waste to get help. How can you spot the signs of stroke? Just follow the “BE FAST.” method if you think someone may be having a stroke:
Balance – Ask them if they feel like they’re losing their balance or coordination.
Eyes – Ask them if they’re having vision trouble or if things look blurry.
Face Drooping – Ask them to smile and observe whether or not one side of their face is drooping.
Arm Weakness – Ask them to raise both arms and see if one arm drifts downward.
Speech – Are they slurring their speech or are they speaking abnormally?
Time to Call 9-1-1 – If any of these symptoms are present, it’s time to call 9-1-1 immediately.
Bonus: Did You Know that University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center is a Primary Stroke Center?
We’re proud to have been designated a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Medical Services Systems. What this means is that we’re always ready to care for stroke patients by ensuring everything is in place to identify and intervene rapidly and effectively in cases of stroke
University of Maryland (UM) Charles Regional Medical Center has also consistently received top ratings from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association for its continued effective and efficient treatment of stroke patients.
We’re also proud to host the Stroke & Brain Injury Support Group here at the hospital. This free support group meets regularly at UM Charles Regional Medical Center and is designed for those who’ve been affected by stroke or traumatic brain injuries. Visit our Facebook page to learn more and to keep up with upcoming meeting dates.