A stroke is referred to as a brain attack (compared to a heart attack) because it cuts of vital blood and oxygen to the brain cells (versus heart cells) that control everything we do – including speaking, walking, and breathing. Every year, stroke affects approximately 800,000 Americans; is the fifth leading cause of death; and is a leading cause of disability. One out of four people who experience stroke has a recurrence. The good news, however, is that many strokes can be prevented.

Types of Strokes

     Ischemic stroke accounts for about 87% of all cases. Ischemic strokes occur as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. The underlying condition for this type of obstruction is the development of fatty deposits lining the vessel walls, or atherosclerosis. These fatty deposits can cause two types of obstruction:

     While a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is often labeled a mini-stroke, it is more accurately characterized as a warning stroke – a warning you should take very seriously. A TIA is caused by a clot; the only difference between a stroke and a TIA is that with a TIA, the blockage is transient. TIA symptoms occur rapidly and last a relatively short time. Most TIAs last less than five minutes; the average is about a minute. When a TIA is over, it usually causes no permanent injury to the brain. 

Know Your Risk for Stroke 

     Everyone has some stroke risk. A few stroke risk factors are beyond your control, such as being over the age of 55, being a male, having diabetes and/or having a family history of stroke. Being African-American is a risk factor for stroke. 

     Here are a few important stroke-prevention guidelines from the Nation Stroke Association:

     •Know your blood pressure. If it is elevated, work with your physician to help keep it under control.

     •Get tested to find out whether you have an irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation. If you have this condition, work with your physician to manage it. 

     •If you smoke, stop. Smoking doubles the risk for stroke. 

     •If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. 

     •Know your cholesterol number. If it is high, work with your physician to control it. 

     •If you are diabetic, follow your physician’s recommendations carefully to control your diabetes.

     •Include exercise in the activities you enjoy in your daily routine.

     •Enjoy a lower-sodium, lower-fat diet.

     •Ask your physician if you have circulation problems. If so, work with your physician to control them. 

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Stroke is an emergency. For every minute that brain cells are deprived of oxygen during stroke, the likelihood of brain damage increases. Call 9-1-1 and seek immediate medical attention. ••

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