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Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States and the third leading cause of death. According to the American Stroke Association, roughly 800,000 Americans per year will suffer from a stroke.
Fortunately, individuals who understand warning signs and risk factors can significantly reduce their risks of having a stroke.
It is important to take advantage of National Stroke Awareness Month this May by learning more about strokes. A stroke occurs when the flow of blood to the brain suddenly has stopped, causing partial loss of brain function. Consequently, this lack of blood flow deprives the brain of oxygen, which damages and even kills brain cells.
If you think you or someone else could be suffering from a stroke, it is important to take immediate action. The longer an individual waits for medical attention, the more permanent the damage may be. Individuals should be taken to the hospital within the first three hours of a stroke.
Warning signs of a stroke may include:
• sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• sudden, severe headache with no known cause
The American Stroke Association has found 80 percent of strokes to be preventable. To help prevent a stroke, the following steps are recommended:
• Know your cholesterol level and make changes to improve it.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Don’t smoke.
• Exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week.
• Eat more whole grains.
• Get at least 600 milligrams of calcium daily from dairy products.
• Get at least 300 micrograms of folate daily from foods such as beans, orange juice, nuts and green, leafy vegetables.
During a stroke, communication can be difficult; therefore, it is important to understand the symptoms and call 9-1-1 as soon as possible.
Ashley Spalding is an advanced practice registered nurse who practices at Ephraim McDowell Springfield Family Medical Center. She can be contacted at (859)336-9801.