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Stroke and stroke prevention: 5 things to know

By Neurology Solutions

Stroke is one of the leading–and preventable–causes of death in the United States. Stroke can happen to people of all ages at any time. Understanding your stroke risk, how to recognize a stroke, stroke symptoms in women, stroke prevention and treatment is vital to helping combat stroke.

Stroke prevention & stroke risk

Stroke is largely preventable, treatable and beatable. Stroke prevention includes understanding your risks, monitoring your health and adjusting your lifestyle if necessary. Generally, men and women with poor health are at higher risk for stroke, but other factors that are out of one’s control contribute as well. Factors associated with stroke and that are controllable include:

  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive drinking

Medical risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB)
  • Circulation problems
  • Carotid artery disease

Other risk factors include age, gender, ethnicity, and history of stroke in one’s family or oneself. Although stroke can happen to anyone at any age, stroke risk increases with age. After the age of 55, stroke risk doubles for every decade a person is alive (National Stroke Association). African Americans also have twice the risk than Caucasians. If your family members have a history of stroke at an early age, or if you have previously had a stroke, you are also at a higher risk.

To reduce the risk of stroke in yourself, family and friends, encourage better health practices such as healthy eating and daily exercise as well as encouraging smokers to quit and alcohol usage in moderation. Those with the medical conditions mentioned above should be monitoring those conditions with medications and other doctor-suggested treatments.

Recognizing signs of stroke

The most common signs of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes, sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination, and sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Learning the warning signs and how to spot a stroke can save lives. Acting fast is crucial. The acronym F.A.S.T. is one of the easiest ways to remember how to recognize a stroke happening to yourself or someone around you in your daily life. If you see someone demonstrating any of the behaviors below, seek help immediately.

National Stroke Association FAST Stroke signs Neurology Solutions Movement Disorder Centers Austin

Infographic courtesy of National Stroke Association

Stroke symptoms in women

Stroke symptoms in women can differ from the most common symptoms. Women can experience the above signs of stroke, but often experience symptoms men don’t. Strokes in women may be mistaken for something else and not be treated in time to have the best possible outcome.

In addition to the most common symptoms, women might experience:

  • More severe headaches
  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • General weakness
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Confusion, unresponsiveness or disorientation
  • Sudden behavioral change
  • Agitation
  • Hallucination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hiccups and chest pain (often mistaken for heart disease or indigestion)
  • Numbness of the entire body (with one side being more numb than the other)
  • Pain
  • Seizures

Pregnancy also increases the risk of stroke in women, especially in the final months and immediately after delivery.

How to respond after stroke

Reacting quickly to a stroke when you recognize possible symptoms is vital. Do not hesitate to call for help and get the suspected victim to a hospital for evaluation and care, even if you’re not 100% sure you are dealing with stroke.

Faster medical attention provides better chances at recovery and can reduce the risk of brain damage, disability and death.  The most effective treatments are provided within the first three hours of when the stroke has occurred.

When you suspect someone around you is having a stroke, quickly test them for symptoms and then:

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately
  • Make a note of what time the symptoms began to help the doctors understand the progression of the stroke
  • Gather any other information on the victim you are able to before medical professionals arrive that may be helpful (blood type, prescriptions, other health issues)

Stroke Treatment

In addition to receiving immediate medical attention, it is important that someone who has suffered a stroke begin the rehabilitation process as soon as possible. Every case is different, and the best recovery options will differ from person to person.

The first step after the patient is released from the hospital is to visit a specialist such as a neurologist who can assess what skills may have been impaired from the stroke and recommend the best rehabilitation process to the patient.

Stroke survivors suffer from a number of side effects, including:

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Spasticity
  • Depression, and more.

Click here to read more on post-stroke conditions.

Rehabilitation may call for a number of different professionals. Speech therapy may be needed to re-learn language skills. A physical therapist can help strengthen muscles and help to regain movement and balance. A family therapist may help assist with dealing with the emotional aspects of recovering from stroke.

At Neurology Solutions, we evaluate each patient  to assess his condition, support network and potential barriers to success. Taking a team approach, we develop a customized rehabilitation plan to help patients relearn skills that are lost and regain balance, mobility and functioning.

Neurology Solutions’ on-site physical therapy center Austin Renewal Therapy specializes in cognitive and speech therapy, and specialized physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Stay Connected

Contact us at 512-865-6310 if you are in the Austin area and in need of a post-stroke assessment to see which treatments may be right for your or a loved one’s condition.

Join Neurology Solutions Movement Disorders Center’s e-mail list to stay up to date on the latest in treatments, how to manage stress and maintain quality of life while battling illness, and tips for staying healthy.

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