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Monday, Oct. 10, 2016

COPING WITH STROKE

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Affliction can be prevented 

Stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident, occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced. This lack of blood flow causes a medical emergency requiring quick treatment, as lack of blood supply causes brain damage.

Stroke affects nearly 800,000 people nationally. Louisiana, like many Southern states, is in the heart of the Stroke Belt. Including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, the Stroke Belt is recognized by public health authorities for having an unusually high incidence of stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease. The exact reason for this phenomenon is not determined, but many scientists believe diets high in fried foods, malnutrition and poverty in the region are contributing factors.

If one feels numbness in the face, have difficulty speaking or experience muscle weakness, you could be suffering from a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, a stroke can happen to anyone at any time.

“How a person is affected by their stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. For example, someone who had a small stroke may only have minor problems such as temporary weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or lose their ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than two-thirds of survivors will have some type of disability,” according to the National Stroke Association.

A stroke happens every 40 seconds.

However, up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented, and less people die from stroke today than they did 10 years ago, according to the Mayo Clinic. Risk factors for stroke include being overweight or obese, not exercising, drinking heavily, smoking cigarettes and using illicit drugs. Medical risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. Family history can also contribute to stroke, as well as age; those 55 and older are more likely to have a stroke. African-Americans are also at higher risk.

One should not skip a visit to the doctor if they have stroke symptoms but start to feel better. A common stroke myth is that temporary stroke symptoms do not require medical attention.

“Temporary stroke symptoms are called transient ischemic attacks. They are warning signs prior to actual stroke and need to be taken seriously,” according to the National Stroke Association.

Two different types of stroke exist. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a brain aneurysm bursts or a weakened blood vessel leak occurs. This is the least common type of stroke, but it’s also the most deadly. Only 15 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic; they’re responsible for 40 percent of all stroke deaths. Blood spills throughout the brain, causing it to swell.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel delivering blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This is the most common type of stroke, and the leading risk factor is high blood pressure. A common treatment for ischemic stroke is a household medication: aspirin.

“Aspirin is an immediate treatment given in the emergency room to reduce the likelihood of having another stroke. Aspirin prevents blood clots from forming,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Think you or a loved one could be suffering from a stroke? The key is to think FAST.

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? Or is one arm unable to raise up?

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.

– Tara Bullock

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