Matters of the heart: strokes

Wellness RN

Jenn CorbettFebruary 23, 2012 

February is American Heart Month so I thought I would dedicate my column in the month of February to matters of the heart. Now do not get to excited, the matters I will be writing about will be heart health related only.

The American heart association and the National Stroke Association has provided us with a plethora of information to help you take care of your heart and reduce your risk of stroke. This column will be devoted to stroke.

In the United States, stroke kills about 137,000 people each year, and is the leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability. Stroke can happen any time, regardless of

race, sex, or age. Approximately 55,000 more women than men suffer stroke each year. When discussing stroke it is important to understand that there are two types of stroke; Ischemic and Hemorrhagic.

Ischemic stroke occurs when arteries are blocked by blood clots or by the gradual build-up of plaque and other fatty deposits. About 87% of all strokes are ischemic.

Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain breaks leaking blood into the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for 13% of all strokes, yet are responsible for more than 30% of all stroke deaths.

It is important to know that all of us have some stroke risk. Some risk factors are beyond our control, including being over the age of 55. Women over the age of 55 are more likely than men to suffer a stroke and more women than men are likely to die because of that stroke.

Other unavoidable risk factors include, being a young male (stroke is more common in young men than in young women), being African American, having diabetes, or having a family history of stroke. Avoidable risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, smoking, heavy drinking, and obesity. Stroke prevention focuses heavily on decreasing ones risk factors.

Now because we are all walking around with some level of risk at different points in our life it is important to recognize the signs of stroke. The key thing to know is that the faster you respond the greater likelihood for survival and recovery. The national stroke association as developed an acronym to help with recognizing symptoms so that medical attention can be sought immediately.

Stroke strikes fast -- you should too. Call 911

This is particularly important living in a rural setting as we do. Do not attempt to drive your loved one to the hospital if you believe they have suffered or are suffering a stroke. It is important to recognize the signs of stroke. The acronym used to help you quickly assess someone who we believe may have suffered a stroke is F.A.S.T.

F -- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A -- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S -- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T -- Time: If you observe any of these signs, act quick and call 911.

The best thing you can do if you think you, a friend or a family member has suffered a stroke ... Get help fast -- call 911.

For more information on stroke, stroke.org.

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