STROKES: Signs, Symptoms & Prevention

December 1, 2010


According to the Centers for Disease Control, every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. will have a stroke and every 3-4 minutes, someone will die of a stroke.  Strokes are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. and kill ~137,000 people each year.  Approximately 795,000 strokes will occur this year.  Therefore, it is not surprising that several of the St. Christopher Fund applicants have experienced a stroke.
Strokes occur when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke) or when a clot blocks the blood supply to part of the brain (ischemic stroke), which leads to parts of the brain becoming damaged or they die.  Ischemic strokes occur in 80-85% of cases.  Strokes are the leading cause of disability in the U.S partially due to the fact that 2 million brain cells die each minute during a stroke.  It’s important to remember that strokes do not only affect the elderly; 1 in 4 strokes occur in those under age 65.

So what’s the good news?  Up to 80% of strokes are preventable!  “How?”, you might say.  Just follow these 10 simple guidelines:

1) Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol, foods high in fiber and low in salt.
2) Maintain a healthy weight.  Obesity is a risk factor for stroke.
3) Exercise.  Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
4) Don’t smoke!  Smoking is one of the leading causes of stroke.
5) Limit alcohol consumption.  Too much alcohol is linked to high blood pressure, which is another cause of stroke.
6) Have your cholesterol checked as having high cholesterol increases your risk of stroke.
7) Get regular blood pressure checks since as hypertension increases your risk of stroke and you may not have any symptoms with high blood pressure.
8) Manage diabetes
9) Take your medicine
10) Talk to your doctor about any symptoms and your family history

It’s important to be knowledgeable of the signs and symptoms of stroke.  These are the 5 most common signs and symptoms of a stroke:

1) Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg.
2) Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others.
3) Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
4) Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination.
5) Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, it is critical to call 9-1-1 immediately and get them to a hospital.  Doctors can use clot-busting drugs that reduce damage if they are administered in the first 3 hours.  New drugs are now on the market that can help reverse damage so ask if the Merci Retrieval System or the Penumbra System are available.

Stroke Graph

Remember to Act F.A.S.T. if you think someone is having a stroke:

Face: ask the person to smile.  Does one side of their face droop?
Arms: ask the person to raise both arms.  Does one arm drift downward?
Speech: ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.  Are their words slurred?
Time: if the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important.  Get help!

The FMCSA requires that drivers who have experienced a stroke or a TIA (transient ischemic attack, “mini stroke”) be off the road for at least 1 year, they must be re-qualified by a neurologist and then will need annual recertification.  Therefore, the effects of having a stroke on drivers and their families are devastating.  Please review the risk factors, make sure you have health insurance, and take care of yourself!

Donation line: 877-332-GIVE (4483)
Fax #: 865-851-8396
Address: P.O. Box 30763  
\Knoxville, TN 37924

Article by:
Dr. John & Donna Kennedy, Ph.D., M.S.
Executive Director
St. Christopher Fund