Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in Kentucky and the United States. But, according to the National Stroke Association, up to 80 percent of them are preventable.
A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks an artery, reducing or cutting off blood flow to part of the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Cut off from blood and oxygen, brain cells begin to die.
“Risk factors that patients can control include high blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, obesity, excess alcohol, and physical inactivity,” says Dr. Michael Dobbs, stroke care affiliate network director and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky.
Risk factors we cannot control include age, gender, race or ethnicity (African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians are at higher risk than Caucasians), and family history of stroke or heart disease.
Stroke symptoms usually come on suddenly, and include numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, vision problems, dizziness, trouble walking or loss of balance, and poor coordination are also symptoms. A sudden, severe headache with no apparent cause is also a stroke sign.
“The longer a patient delays evaluation and treatment, the more likely the damage from the stroke will be permanent and the chances of dying are increased drastically,” Dobbs says. “I can’t stress to people enough the importance of calling 911 and getting to an emergency department the moment the onset of stroke symptoms is felt.”
If you suspect a stroke, act F A S T:
FACE Ask the person to smile. Is one side of the face drooping?
ARMS Ask the person to raise his or her arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the speech slurred or does the person have trouble repeating the sentence?
TIME If the person exhibits any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately. Do not wait. Brain cells may be dying.
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