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Published on May 18, 2018

Stroke: Risk Factors, Symptoms, Recovery and the Importance of Calling 911

Stroke Signs

In this series:

Who is at Risk and How to Reduce Your Risk

A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. It can happen to anyone at any time, but some people have a higher risk of having a stroke than others. The good news is, approximately eighty percent of strokes can be avoided by controlling your risk factors. Some risk factors are uncontrollable, including family history, age or gender. Lifestyle and medical risk factors can be modified to help reduce the risk of stroke.

The most common, modifiable risk factors for stroke include:

  • Diet
  • Exercise – this can be as simple as going for a 20-minute walk every day or a few times a week.
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • High alcohol consumption
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Other medical conditions such as atrial fibrillation or sleep apnea

It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider to understand which risk factors you might have and how to make lifestyle changes to decrease your risk of stroke.

The faster a stroke patient receives care, the better their recovery can be. If experiencing stroke symptoms, do not hesitate; call 911 immediately. Let them take you to the nearest hospital to receive proper care.

Carrie Craver is the assistant director of nursing at Cone Health Moses Cone Memorial Hospital.

Know the Signs and Importance of Acting Fast

Strokes are a leading cause of disability in the United States and getting quick medical attention can significantly improve patient outcomes. There are different kinds of stroke, but it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of stroke and call for help if someone is experiencing one. The word FAST can help you remember the most common symptoms someone can experience:

  • Face: Is one side of the face drooping?
  • Arm: Is one arm weak or numb?
  • Speech: Can they speak or is their speech slurred?
  • Time: Every second, brain cells die. Call 911 at any sign of stroke.

With a stroke, time is of the essence! Acting fast is important because the longer that blood flow is blocked, the more damage the brain experiences. The quicker a stroke patient receives care, the better their recovery outcomes. If experiencing stroke symptoms, do not hesitate; call 911 immediately. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are trained to stabilize and transport patients to the nearest Stroke Center so they can receive fast and proper treatment.

Josh McDaniel is a stroke response nurse at Cone Health Moses Cone Memorial Hospital.

Life After a Stroke

Changes in quality of life often seen after stroke can fall into a few categories:

  • Physical Changes
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Speech
  • Vision
  • Emotional, Mental or Behavioral
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of reoccurrence
  • Irritability
  • Social
  • Need for social support
  • Social isolation

Most patients want to know when they can start driving again or when they can go back to work, but that timing can vary. Every stroke case is different, and each person will have a different level of abilities and functionality during recovery. Rehabilitation through physical, occupational and speech therapy can help patients regain some of the normal function they may have lost. The earlier a patient begins rehabilitation, the better the outcome. Therefore, it is important to discuss what recovery looks like with your physician so a treatment plan can be tailored to your individual condition.

Fear of reoccurrence is also common among stroke patients, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor about how to reduce your risk. Some risk factors for stroke are genetic and can’t be changed, but controllable risk factors that can be reduced, include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Inactivity
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Sleep apnea

If you aren’t sure where to start, talk to your physician. Your provider can be a great resource for finding ways that to reduce your risk of stroke.

If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Jindong Xu is vascular neurologist at Guilford Neurological Associates and member of Cone Health Medical Group.

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