Think it could never happen to you? Or your kids? Think again. Dr. Carolyn Brockington tells us who’s most at risk of having a stroke.
Although the chances of having a stroke increase with age, anyone can have a stroke at any age. Frankie Muniz, the young actor best known for his role on “Malcolm in the Middle” recently disclosed he experienced a “mini-stroke” at age 26. And he’s healthy! So what can you do to try and stop a stroke from occurring?
The good news is up to 80% of strokes can be prevented by identifying your risk factors with your doctor and devising a plan to control and modify the risks long-term.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blockage of a blood vessel, presence of a blood clot or rupture of a blood vessel. The disruption in blood flow results in the loss of oxygen and nutrients to the brain producing a brain injury. The injury to the brain is permanent and may result in a serious disability.
The “mini-strokes” or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) do not produce brain injury, but serve as a warning sign of a possible impending stroke. Notably, approximately 50% of strokes occur within two days of a TIA. TIAs result from a brief interruption of blood flow to the brain. During the time the brain is not receiving the appropriate amount of blood, a person may develop symptoms, but the blood flow is restored to the brain before any permanent injury occurs and the symptoms resolve. A prompt evaluation of a TIA may uncover the reason for the interruption in blood flow and provide an opportunity to initiate the appropriate treatment and significantly reduce the risk of a future stroke.
Fortunately, you can reduce your stroke risk by identifying and controlling your risk factors. The stroke risk factors include high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes mellitus, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, smoking and obesity. These chronic medical conditions can make the blood vessels fragile or narrow which decrease the amount of blood flow to the brain. When a stroke or TIA occurs in a young adult (age ≤ 55) other conditions are investigated including vascular injuries, congenital heart abnormalities and blood clotting disorders. It is vital to discuss your risk factors with your doctor so you can successfully manage your personal risk.
A stroke or TIA is an emergency and should be evaluated immediately at the closest emergency room. Call 911 if stroke symptoms occur and note the time the symptoms first appear. A prompt evaluation in the emergency department can provide the opportunity for treatment with an FDA-approved clot-buster medication in selected cases.
The symptoms of a stroke or TIA occur suddenly and without warning. The loss of blood flow to the brain produces symptoms which may include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness (particularly on one side of the body)
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Following a healthy lifestyle and controlling your risk factors can go a long way to reducing your risk of stroke.