Am I at risk for a Stroke?

This is part of our on-going series of exploring neurological and degenerative conditions that can affect a number of individuals and specifically how Physical Therapy can help”

National Stroke Month is in March but it is always important to re-fresh about what a stroke is, your risk factors and the warning signs.

Having a stroke is categorized as having a “brain attack” or a cerebrovascular accident and there are two ways that this can occur.  Ischemic strokes account for 87% of strokes in which a blood clot blocks at artery in the the brain.  Hemorrhagic strokes account for 13% of strokes and this is where a blood vessel breaks.  Both of these types disrupt blood flow and cause cell death in certain areas of the brain where the clot or hemorrhage occurred.  It is estimated that 2 million brain cells die every minute during a stroke thus increasing the risk of permanent brain damage.  Transent Ischeic Attack (TIA or Mini Stroke) is where blood flow in the brain is temporarily blocked and a person demonstrates stroke like symptoms for 24 hours but symptoms improve and there are little residual effects.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, killing over 133,000 people and it is estimated 7,000,000 stroke survivors in the U.S.  Women and African Americans are at a greater risk for having a stroke.

Other risk factors that are out of our control are being over the age of 55, African American descent, living with diabetes and a family history of stroke.  Medical risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, history of heart disease, atrial fibrillation, carotid artery disease, previous stroke and previous TIA.

On some level people can reduce their risk for stroke by knowing their cholesterol, blood pressure levels, controlling their diabetes and knowing if they have atrial fibrillation. Individuals can stop smoking, decrease their alcohol use and partake in a healthy lifestyle with a focus on exercise and diet.

The most important thing to recognize is the symptoms of stroke. the warning signs are:     F = FACE – Have the person smile, does one side droop?                                                           A = ARMS – Have the person raise their arms. Does one drift downward?                               S = Speech – Have a person repeat simple sentences.  Are they slurred or strange sounding?                                                                                                                                             T = Time – Observe these signs and call 911

In  the next few weeks we will focus on certain symptoms of stroke and what we can do to treat them in the world of therapy and home exercise program.

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