Stroke-What is it?
Stroke: Know What to Do
Although most people who suffer strokes are older, stroke can occur at any age. Especially prone to stroke are people with unhealthy lifestyles—those who smoke, stick to poor diets, and don’t exercise. Stroke is also associated with people who suffer from obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, alcohol abuse, diabetes, or have a family history of stroke or an abnormal heart rhythm. African-Americans have a much higher incidence of stroke, as well. In the United States, strokes are the most common cause of disability and the third most common cause of death in adults.
What Is Stroke?
Stroke is caused by a lack of blood supply to a portion of the brain, which causes that portion to die within just a few minutes. This lack of blood supply, also known as ischemia, results in long-term neurological effects because the cells in the brain do not regenerate.
The outcome of stroke depends on the person’s age, general health, the region of the brain affected by the stroke, the type of stroke, and the extent of the brain damage. Common long-term effects include difficulty speaking, poor memory, altered emotions, poor recognition of previously familiar objects and people, amnesia, deformities of the extremities, and difficulty with movement, including weakness and paralysis. The weakness and paralysis often affect one side of the body—usually opposite the stroke location. Some of the effects can be permanent, while others may resolve with time and treatment.
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Sometimes people experience a “pre-stroke”—a shortterm lack of blood supply to the brain, also called a transient ischemic attack. The loss of blood supply lasts from seconds to just a few minutes and does not result in permanent damage. This condition is often a precursor to a full-scale stroke, so any symptoms associated with it should be investigated immediately.
Warning signs of stroke include ANY of the following:
- Sudden difficulty speaking (slurred speech) or understanding what people are saying
- Sudden onset of confusion or altered mental status, such as loss of consciousness, or not recognizing people who should be familiar
- Sudden numbness or tingling on one side of the face or body, or both
- Sudden onset of dizziness or unsteadiness, loss of balance or coordination, or both
- Sudden difficulty walking or standing upright
- Sudden severe headache
- Sudden severe unexplained upper-neck pain
- Sudden trouble with vision or sight.
Information from ACA