Strokes are among the leading causes of death in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported, yet too few people know the serious symptoms to watch out for, the factors that put them at risk, and the danger they can still face even after a trip to the emergency room.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. What better time to learn more about the serious medical condition that, the CDC said, kills one American every four seconds?
Did you know, for example, that strokes can happen at any age (even childhood)? Or that your race, ethnicity, and gender can make a huge difference in your personal risk?
Do you know what is actually means to have a stroke? This diagram explains it simply. Photo Credit: Flickr.
The more you know about strokes, the better you can protect yourself, work toward prevention, and learn what steps to take if you or someone around you suffers a stroke.
Recognizing Stroke Symptoms
First things first: let’s talk about the definition of a stroke. A stroke is an interruption of or reduction to the blood supply that travels to the brain, Mayo Clinic explained. Without continuous blood flow, the brain tissue doesn’t get enough oxygen, which can cause cells to begin dying. Brain damage can begin in a matter of minutes, and can sometimes be irreversible. That’s why it’s essential to quickly notice the symptoms of a stroke and to get help right away.
The American Stroke Association stresses a campaign called F.A.S.T. to help people detect the symptoms of a stroke in themselves or others.
F: Face drooping, which may cause numbness or an uneven smile
A: Arm weakness, which can involve numbness or one arm the drifts downward when raised
S: Speech difficulty, like slurring or the inability to correctly repeat a simple sentence
T: Time to call 9-1-1, even if these symptoms seem to go away
Face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulties may be among the most recognizable stroke symptoms, but they’re not the only ones. Some stroke victims experience changes in vision, severe headaches, confusion, and difficulty walking.
Understanding Stroke Complications
Though strokes kill 130,000 Americans a year, they also leave survivors facing life-altering disabilities. Strokes cause brain damage, which can manifest in devastating physical and psychological consequences. Exactly how a stroke will affect a victim depends on a lot of factors, including which side of the brain suffered the stroke.
Are You at Risk for a Stroke?
- Certain lifestyle choices, medical conditions, and demographic factors can greatly increase your risk of suffering a stroke.• Smoking cigarettes increases your stroke risk substantially.
- People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are at a far greater risk than those without these medical conditions.
- While the majority of stroke victims are older, being young doesn’t rule out the possibility of suffering a stroke. About one-third of all stroke hospitalizations involve patients under age 65, the CDC reported.
- Though strokes affect patients of all races and ethnicities, the CDC reported that some races and ethnicities have higher stroke rates than others. Specifically, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and blacks are in the high-risk group. The “risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks than for whites,” while “Hispanics’ risk for stroke falls between that of whites and blacks,” the CDC said.
The Catastrophic Combination of Strokes and Medical Malpractice
The fact that so many people die from strokes is nothing short of tragic. The disability and loss of quality of life that survivors often experience, too, is awful. Yet one of the saddest things about strokes is that many of them could have been prevented, or at least their symptoms could have been mitigated if only the right medical provider had handled the medical emergency better.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard from patients who went to the emergency room with worrying symptoms but were sent home from the ER, only to later suffer a debilitating stroke. If they had received the right care early on, these patients may have suffered far less substantial brain damage. Those who died might have pulled through, and those who survived would be in far better health.
Research shows that patients who receive the right medical treatment for their stroke within three hours of developing their first symptom experience fewer disabilities – even three months later, when the patient has already begun rehabilitation therapy, the CDC reported. If you ever fear that you or a loved one is having a stroke and the staff at the hospital doesn’t take you seriously, insist on getting a second opinion. If a stroke is the cause of your symptoms, you can’t afford even an hour’s delay in getting treatment. Every minute counts.