Strokes are one of the most debilitating health problems that can affect a person. Strokes are caused by reduced blood supply to your brain due to blocked arteries or a burst blood vessel. These interruptions deprive the brain of oxygen, causing the stroke
Who is most at risk?
Anyone can suffer a stroke. However, there are different risks that can increase an individual’s chances, and one can distinguish between controllable and uncontrollable risks. Some uncontrollable factors that can heighten the risk of a stroke include:
- Age: although strokes are more prevalent amongst people older than 65, it’s not uncommon for younger people to suffer a stroke.
- Family history: if a direct family member has suffered a stroke, you are more at risk.
- Race: Studies have shown that people of African descent are more likely to die from a stroke than Caucasians, since they have a higher risk for health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Gender: women are at a higher risk than men and contraceptives, smoking and post-menopausal hormone therapy are some of the factors that may increase stroke risks.
- Previous health issues: people who have had a stroke are at higher risk of suffering a stroke again. The risk also increases amongst people who have had heart attacks.
The good news is that, according to www.stroke.org, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented. Controllable risks need to be pro-actively managed through healthy lifestyle options. Some risks to avoid and/or constantly monitor are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse
- Physical inactivity
- Obesity and a diet high in trans fat
Recognizing signs of strokes
A stroke can come about very suddenly and may not even last long. Look out for the following signs when suspecting someone of suffering from a stroke:
- Sudden severe headaches
- Numbness or sudden drooping of the face, arm or leg (usually only on one side of the body)
- Confusion and trouble speaking
- Trouble seeing
- Trouble walking due to dizziness, loss of balance and coordination
What to do when someone suffers a stroke?
Phone emergency services immediately, stay with the patient and keep them still. Make sure they can’t injure themselves by falling and make sure their airway is open. Take notes of the symptoms to inform the medical staff. Don’t offer any medicine to treat any of the symptoms as this can worsen the situation. It’s also important to remain calm and in control of the situation and reassure the patient that help is on its way.
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