Health & Medical Guide

Understanding strokes

Every 45 seconds, someone in the United States experiences a stroke, and every three minutes someone dies of a stroke.

Despite being the third leading cause of death in this country, stroke is one of the most misunderstood illnesses. Believing the condition to be a “stroke of fate,” many people do not know that stroke is often preventable and treatable.

A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blood clot or a broken blood vessel. This lack of oxygen kills brain cells in the immediate area, often causing physical and emotional disabilities including speech problems, memory loss, and paralysis.

The five warning signs of stroke, all of which come on suddenly, include:

• Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side.

• Difficulty speaking or understanding speech.

• Difficulty with vision.

• Dizziness or loss of balance.

• Sever headache with no known cause.

In a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke, these signs may last only a few minutes or hours and cause no lasting damage. But, any of these warning signs, no matter how temporary, should be treated as a life-threatening emergency. Call 911 immediately, and seek immediate medical treatment.

Stroke is one of the most preventable of all life-threatening health problems, with proper attention to lifestyle and medical risk factors. Stroke is treatable. Every year more than 750,000 Americans experience a stroke, and a third of them are under the age of 65. Stroke is the leading cause of disability, with more then four million survivors living with the physical and emotional effects of stroke.

Published August 2006

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