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Health & Wellness

Understanding the Risks & Warning Signs of Stroke

Did you know? A stroke can happen at any age. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an American suffers from stroke every 40 seconds. Though nearly three out of every four strokes happen in people over age 65, age-related risk begins around age 55.

Most strokes are ischemic or caused by blood clots, plaques or other particles that block the blood vessels to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and damages nearby tissues. A mini-stroke, known also as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), blocks blood flow to the brain for fewer than five minutes and is a warning sign for future stroke.

Each type of stroke quickly damages brain cells due to lack of oxygen — and body parts controlled by those damaged areas show symptoms first.

Categorizing Stroke Risks

Through stroke can happen at any age, the CDC recognizes certain conditions, lifestyle choices and family history may increase a person’s risk of stroke. Although some of these stroke risk factors are outside of a person’s control, experts from the CDC estimate up to 80 percent of strokes may be prevented by living a healthier lifestyle.

Physical & Health Conditions

Conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes may increase a person’s stroke risk. And chances of having a stroke are higher for people that have already experienced a stroke or TIA previously.

Behaviors & Lifestyle

Physical inactivity, smoking tobacco and drinking too much alcohol heighten stroke risk. Unhealthy eating habits, including foods high in cholesterol, sodium and saturated fats, also increase a person’s risk of stroke.

Family History & Genetics

Though you can’t change your family health history, knowing about it can help you or loved ones take action now. A family history of stroke and certain genetic disorders, like sickle cell disease, may increase stroke risk. Race or ethnicity may also heighten risk, especially for Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native individuals. Stroke is more common in women than men, and beginning after age 55, a person’s chance of stroke almost doubles every 10 years.

Need to Know: 5 Stroke Symptoms in Men & Women

Act faster and save a life by knowing these five common stroke symptoms. If you or someone near you experiences any of the following, please call 911.

  1. Notice sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg, possibly contained to only one side.
  2. Have difficulty speaking, trouble understanding speech or experience sudden confusion.
  3. Experience sudden vision loss in one or both eyes.
  4. Have trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination.
  5. Severe headache or brief loss of consciousness.

Remember: Do not drive yourself or someone else to the hospital that may be suffering from a stroke. Call 911 so medical professionals can assess and begin treatment as needed.

Remember “F.A.S.T.” for Stroke Treatment

To reduce damage to the brain from lack of oxygen, every minute counts. A quick assessment championed by the American Stroke Association helps determine if you or a person near you is suffering from a stroke. The most successful treatments for stroke are available only to those diagnosed within three hours of the first symptoms, so it’s important to take note of the time.

Remember the stroke acronym F.A.S.T., and you can help save a life.

F — Face Drooping

Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face feel numb or droopy or does the smile appear lopsided?

A — Arm Weakness

Ask the person to lift both arms up. Does one arm feel numb or drift downward?

S — Speech Difficulty

Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Do they have difficulty or is their speech slurred?

T — Time to Call 911

If the person is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 and get them to a hospital right away.

Every Minute Counts During a Stroke

Be prepared for the unexpected and use the F.A.S.T. assessment to detect early warning signs of stroke. When symptoms begin — either you or someone around you — should call 911 immediately. It’s impossible to know the type of stroke at symptom onset, and emergency care is always needed.

If you or someone you love has suffered a stroke, trust Beacon Hill’s skilled nursing care and rehabilitation services to support you. Here, you or your loved one receive expert care with help from our trained physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy teams.

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