Knowledge: Your Best Defense Against Stroke

Knowledge: Your Best Defense Against Stroke

Every year, stroke impacts the lives of about 795,000 Americans, and yet, most of us wouldn’t recognize the warning signs of this life-threatening, leading cause of long-term disability. So what’s the best way to fight stroke?

Prevention—and knowledge is the key.

What is a stroke

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blocked (ischemic stroke) or burst (hemorrhagic stroke) blood vessel.

What are the warning signs

Knowing the acronym BEFAST is a helpful way to remember the signs of stroke:

  • B: Balance—Loss of balance, arms and legs not working right or trouble walking.
  • E: Eyes—Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.
  • F: Face—Face or mouth droops to one side when you try to smile.
  • A: Arms—One arm drifts down or arms will not raise when you try to lift them, or sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body.
  • S: Speech—Talking does not make sense; unable to understand or repeat simple sentences.
  • T: Time—Time to call 911 if you notice any of these signs. Remember to note the time symptoms started. Stroke is a medical emergency, and the faster you receive treatment, the better your chances of recovery.

What are the stroke risk factors

Risk factors you cannot change include:

  • Age—Your stroke risk more than doubles for each decade of life after age 55.
  • Family history and race—Your risk increases if your parent(s), grandparent(s) or sibling(s) had a stroke. Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives may be more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanic whites or Asians.
  • Gender—Stroke is more common in men than in women. However, women account for more than half of total stroke deaths.
  • Heart attack or prior stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA)—The risk of stroke for an individual who has already suffered one is many times that of a person who has not. TIAs are “mini-strokes” that cause stroke-like symptoms.

The Power of Prevention

Some of the leading risk factors you can control through prevention or treatment strategies include:

  • High blood pressure and cholesterol—Have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels frequently moni-tored by your health care provider. Talk to your doctor about treatment options if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • Smoking—Smokers are twice as likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than nonsmokers. So don’t quit on the idea of quitting smoking!
  • Diabetes—If you have diabetes, discuss how you can more effectively manage your disease with your health care provider. Learn more about diabetes classes.
  • Poor diet—Eat a well-balanced, low-fat, low-sodium (salt) diet. Learn more about Nutrition Services.
  • Physical inactivity and obesity—Being inactive and/or overweight boosts your risks. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity per day on most days of the week.

And, always remember B.E.F.A.S.T. Call 911 if you suspect a stroke. The faster you receive treatment, the better your chances to recover.

Holland Hospital is a Certified Primary Stroke Center, one of a select number of hospitals nationwide that meet the rigorous standards needed for advanced stroke treatment.


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