10 Facts About Strokes

Each year, approximately 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke. About one of four strokes happen in someone with a previous history of stroke and about 80 percent of all strokes are preventable. Although the risk increases with advanced age, a stroke can affect people of any age group.

Here are ten facts about stroke that could not only help save the loved ones in your life, but potentially save your own.

Stroke is a literal “brain attack”

Stroke is a very serious medical emergency that occurs when blood flow is cut off to an area of the brain. Without blood flow, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. This means that the abilities controlled by those areas of the brain, such as muscle strength and speech, are affected.

There are two main types of stroke

Ischemic strokes occur when there is an obstruction or clot within the blood vessel that stops blood flow from going to the brain. They make up around 87 percent of strokes.

Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures or bursts, and bleeds into the surrounding brain. These types of strokes are more rare and only account for around 13 percent of strokes.

You can have a stroke without knowing it

There are many reasons you may not realize you have had a stroke – one of which is that stroke symptoms are often subtle and easy to brush off. Another reason is because of TIAs, or transient ischemic attacks. TIAs are also referred to as a “mini-strokes,” but they should be referred to as “warning strokes.” They produce stroke-like symptoms that don’t last and are more subtle, but are often indicators that a full-blown stroke could be ahead. TIAs are still strokes and considered medical emergencies that need immediate attention. 

BE FAST is an acronym to help remember the symptoms of stroke

B – Loss of balance or coordination
E – Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
F – Drooping or numbness of the face
A – Weakness/numbness in arm (or leg)
S Speech is slurred, jumbled or lost
TTime to call 9-1-1

With more than 1.9 million brain cells dying each minute during a stroke, time loss is brain loss. The treatment options for stroke are time sensitive and are only available within a certain window. The sooner the patient gets to the hospital, the sooner they will receive lifesaving treatment and the better their chances of living disability-free will be.

All stroke symptoms will have sudden onset

During a stroke, you may not experience each symptom itself and they will typically only happen to one side of your body. The key to remember is that these symptoms will not happen gradually, but suddenly – so never ignore the BE FAST symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and make a note of the time.

A sudden, severe headache is also a symptom of stroke

While the BE FAST symptoms are the most common signs of stroke, additional symptoms of stroke include: sudden confusion or trouble understanding, sudden trouble walking or a sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

If someone is showing signs of stroke, call 9-1-1 right away and make a note of the time

When your brain is deprived of oxygen, every second counts. Calling 9-1-1 allows medical experts to reach you faster and alerts the hospital to prepare for your arrival.

Strokes are preventable

Eighty percent of stoke are preventable by:

  • Eating a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding smoking and alcohol/drug abuse
  • Managing conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation.

The Mediterranean diet is the most recommended diet to reduce your risk of stroke. The basics of the diet include making 50 percent of your diet fruits and vegetables; using good fats like extra virgin olive oil; eating nuts such as almonds and walnuts; and eating fish for your protein while keeping your beef/pork intake to a minimum.

For exercise, engage in at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity each week. Avoiding tobacco smoke and limiting your alcohol intake will also reduce your risk of stroke.

Your primary care doctor can help manage things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even atrial fibrillation, and will let you know if medication or lifestyle modifications are the best way to control those factors.

  • There are three major risks for stroke
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Smoking

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the No. 1 cause of stroke and the most important risk factor you can control. Other risk factors you can manage include physical inactivity or obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, poor diet and smoking.

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare is home to the region’s only Comprehensive Stroke Center – offering the most advanced and minimally invasive stroke interventions and treatments from specially-trained physicians. 

Tallahassee Memorial boasts a variety of revolutionary treatments for strokes, including tPA — a clot busting intravenous medication that breaks down the clot and allows blood flow to be restored, and mechanical thrombectomy — a minimally invasive procedure that retrieves the clot using a catheter, eliminating the need to open the skull.