May is Stroke Awareness Month. A cerebellar accident, or CVA, is the medical term for a stroke. It is caused when either a clot or an aneurysm interrupts blood flow in a blood vessel in the brain, causing brain cells to die.
Strokes can be either ischemic — caused by a blood clot blocking blood flow to the brain — or hemorrhagic, when the blood vessel ruptures and there’s bleeding on the brain.
Prompt medical treatment is vital. If a stroke is caused by a blood clot, and medical treatment is sought within three hours of onset of symptoms, clot-busting medications can reduce brain damage and limit disability from the stroke.
According to the National Stroke Organization, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and there are more than 7 million stroke survivors in this nation. An estimated 795,000 people have strokes every year, and strokes are the leading cause of serious long-term disability.
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Signs and symptoms of stroke include trouble with speaking and understanding, paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg especially on one side, trouble seeing suddenly out of one or both eyes, sudden severe headache with dizziness and maybe vomiting, and trouble walking.
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms you should seek immediate medical treatment even if these symptoms seem to disappear. The NSO has adopted FAST as an acronym to help detect and enhance responsiveness to stroke victim needs:
Face — Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms — Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Does the person have trouble raising one arm?
Speech — Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
Time — If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
It is estimated that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Some traits, health conditions and habits can increase your risk for a stroke. The more of these you have, the greater your risk for a stroke. You can’t change some of the risk factors such as age, gender, family history, past history, and ethnicity, but you can work to reduce other factors.
High blood pressure is the main risk factor for a stroke. Other risk factors include diabetes, heart diseases that can cause blood clots, smoking, excess weight, lack of physical activity, unhealthy cholesterol levels, stress and depression.
Dayla Saylor Combs is a registered nurse and rehab liaison at Baptist Health Corbin.