Strokes are the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States and the third leading cause of death. Every year, more than 795,000 Americans have a stroke, and approximately 130,000 people die because of a stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that on average, one American dies every four minutes as the result of a stroke.
Although strokes can occur at any age, about 75 percent occur in people over the age of 65. In fact, your risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55. Males have a slightly higher risk for stroke, but women account for over half of all stroke deaths.
Types of stroke
Although there are different types of stroke, each causes a disruption to the blood flow in the brain. This deprives the brain cells of the oxygen required to control body movements and functions, facilitate language, store memories and process emotions.
When a stroke impairs the flow of blood to the brain, oxygen-starved cells begin to die within minutes. The symptoms of the resulting damage manifest in the parts of the body controlled by those brain cells.
1) Ischemic strokes are caused by a narrowing or blockage in the artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Often caused by blood clots, ischemic strokes account for approximately 87 percent of all strokes, according to the American Heart Association.
2) A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain ruptures. The leaking blood puts pressure on brain cells and damages them. High blood pressure is often to blame for a hemorrhagic stroke.
3) A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is characterized by a temporary blockage in the brain that decreases the blood supply for usually no more than five minutes. However, a TIA is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate attention because:
- There is no way to know whether symptoms are from a TIA or from a major type of stroke.
- More than a third of people who have a TIA end up having a major stroke within one year if they don’t receive treatment.
- Up to 15 percent of these individuals will have a major stroke within three months of a TIA.
Know the warning signs of a stroke
The chances of surviving a stroke and minimizing disability are highest when emergency treatment begins quickly. Call 911 immediately if you notice any of these symptoms:
- • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- • Blindness or double vision in one or both eyes
- • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness or paralysis in the face or a limb, often on one side of the body
- • Slurred speech
- • Difficulty understanding others’ speech
- • Sudden confusion
- • Light-headedness or dizziness
- • Loss of balance and coordination, trouble walking
High cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking are major risk factors for stroke, and the CDC estimates that nearly half of Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Unhealthy lifestyle choices increase your risk for stroke, so it’s imperative that you are honest with your internist about your habits so he or she can support you with a treatment plan designed to prevent stroke and its complications. Steps might include:
- • Controlling high cholesterol with medications and lifestyle changes
- • Controlling high blood pressure with regular monitoring, medications and dietary changes
- • Managing complicating chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
After emergency treatment for a stroke, your doctor will prescribe a care plan based on the impact of your stroke. Most stroke survivors undergo some form of rehabilitation designed to restore as much strength and function as possible and return them to independent living. You might need speech therapy, physical therapy or occupational therapy.
Act fast — every minute matters
Call 911 immediately if you notice signs of a stroke, even if they are sporadic and appear to go away. “Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first symptoms tend to have less disability three months after a stroke than those who received delayed care,” advises the CDC.
Would you benefit from a consultation with an internal medicine specialist trained to spot risk factors for stroke? Revere Health’s internists treat acute and chronic health conditions and offer health management counseling in four Utah locations to serve you.
Are you hoping to partner with an internist who will care for you through all stages of your life? Revere Health Internal Medicine providers offer health management counseling for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. We have nearly 30 providers who are specially trained in internal medicine in four locations in Utah County to serve your needs.