A common cause of disability and death in Kentucky is stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 130,000 Americans die yearly from stroke, and it is the fifth leading cause of death in the Bluegrass.
There are two types. Hemorrhagic strokes are when there is bleeding in the brain. Most strokes (85 percent) are ischemic strokes, which occur when the blood flow to an area in the brain is blocked.
Sometimes patients are told they had a mini-stroke. The term for this is a transient ischemic attack, and it can be your body’s warning that a real stroke may occur. Symptoms for a transient ischemic attack are the same as a stroke, but they are temporary.
The National Stroke Organization suggests you remember FAST as a way to recognize symptoms of stroke:
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▪ Face: Does one side of the face droop when the person smiles?
▪ Arms: When lifting both arms, does one arm drift downward?
▪ Speech: Is speech slurred or sound strange?
▪ Time: Call 911 immediately.
Note the time when the symptoms started, as it may affect treatment. Odds of recovery are improved the faster you get to a hospital.
Risk factors for stroke include older age, certain medical conditions, unhealthy behaviors and family history. If you have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack in the past, your risk is high for another stoke.
People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and sickle cell disease also are at high risk. Unhealthy lifestyles that include smoking, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol intake, unhealthy diet and obesity increase stroke risk.
Your risk of stroke may be lowered in many ways. If you smoke, quitting will lower your risk. Change your diet to include more fruits and vegetables. Look for foods with low saturated fat, low cholesterol and high fiber. Limiting salt can also help. Men should not drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day, and women no more than one.
Exercise can lower your risk as well: Strive for 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. If you are diabetic, keeping your blood sugar under control lowers your risk. High-blood pressure that is controlled also lowers the chance of stroke. If you are prescribed medicine for these conditions, never stop taking them without discussing with your doctor.
For more information, discuss with your physician.
Dr. Tabitha Culver is a family medicine physician with Baptist Health Medical Group at Hamburg in Lexington.