May is National Stroke Awareness Month


May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Healthcare professionals say that recognizing the warning signs of stroke and getting emergency care quickly can make a significant difference in recovery from a brain attack.

Stroke is a medical emergency and a leading cause of disabilities and death in the U.S. Also known as a brain attack, a stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. Across the country, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, and one in six people will suffer a stroke in their lifetime.

Stroke has no age limits, and younger adults are increasingly affected by stroke and its risk factors. Young adults with stroke often have accompanying risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, obesity and substance abuse.

During a stroke, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, and that part of the brain starts to die.

“It’s important to recognize that a stroke is happening, because you can save a life, including your own,” said Abrazo Health Interventional Neurologist Dr. Sushant Kale. “Recent clinical trials have demonstrated that even the ‘wake-up stroke,’ or a stroke that happens during sleep, for which there was no treatment in the past, can be successfully treated with good outcomes with a procedure called mechanical thrombectomy."

Kale added it is important to remember that "time equals brain."

"A delay of even five or 10 minutes can make a big difference in a patient’s outcome. Every minute in delay to treatment leads to 2 million neurons dying," he said.

Signs of a stroke include being off balance, slurred speech and arm weakness. And women are at a higher risk than men. The American Stroke Association says using the acronym BEFAST can help recognize when someone may be having a stroke:

B - Balance: Watch for sudden loss of balance

E - Eyes: Check for vision loss
F - Face: Look for an uneven smile
A - Arm: Check if one arm is weak
S - Speech: Listen for slurred speech
T - Time: Call 9-1-1 right away

Simple lifestyle changes can make a big impact on one’s risk for stroke. Choosing healthy meal and snack options, regular exercise, lowering your Body Mass Index, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking and scheduling checkups with your doctor can help reduce health risks.

“Up to 80% of clot-related strokes may be preventable through healthy lifestyle changes. You and your healthcare team can work together to control conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes that raise your risk for stroke,” said Kale.

Knowing the signs and risks for a stroke can be lifesaving.

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