Do you know what a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is? A CVA is commonly referred to as a stroke. On the Internet and TV this condition maybe referred to as a brain attack. All these terms relate to the same concept, your brain goes with out oxygen for a certain amount of time. Without oxygen your brain cells can die, leading to further disability. 15 million people world wide have had strokes, and it is important that treatment starts early. At this point, you might be asking yourself am I at a risk for a stroke or a “brain attack” and the answer is YES. Everyone is at risk, brain attacks can occur at anytime, at age. This is something not fear, there are factors that can out individuals at higher risks than other. You are at a greater risk of experience a brain attack or stroke if:
- You are age 65 years and older; but can occur at any age, after the age of 55 your risk doubles every 10 years, or with each passing decade
- You are a male
- You are from an African American decent. African Americans are at a 2x higher risk than Caucasians
- You have a past medical history of a previous stroke, or a transient ischemic attack (TIA) commonly called a “mini stroke”. TIAs present as stroke, but the symptoms resolve within 24 hours. With strokes the symptoms do not go away that quickly.
- You have high blood pressure, or certain heart diseases
- You have migraine headaches, with warning signs called an aura
- You smoke
- You make poor dietary choices and live a non-active sedentary lifestyle
- You have long term alcohol usage, or abuse alcohol
- You use illicit substances such as street drugs
- You have diabetes, and your diabetes is not well controlled
- You are on hormonal contraception such as birth control pills
If you have any of these risk factors DO NOT automatically assume you are going to have a stroke or brain attack. Talk with your doctor, and look at what options are available to lower your risk. You can lower your risk by:
- Managing your blood pressure
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Exercises 30 minutes a day most days of the week
- Managing your diabetes, getting those blood sugars under control
- Quit smoking
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Seeking help for substance abuse
It is important to be well educated about the risks of having a brain attack or stroke. Now that the risk factors have been explained you may be asking yourself: How do I know if I am having a stroke or a loved one is? You have to think FAST:
- FAST stands for face, arm, speech, and time
- Is there a facial droop, or the face appears to be not symmetrical
- Does the arm fall when it is picked up, has control of the arm been lost on the affected side
- Is the person hard to understand, is their speech no longer clear, and garbled up, it may be incomphrensible
- Time is essential, call 911, if this person is brought to a certified stroke center within 30 minutes, a treatment to reverse the stroke may be provided
At any onset of stroke like symptoms even if they appear to go away seek medical attention, call 911. Do not take the risk, or wait to see if this will resolve on its own. Time is important, and so are you.
This media clip from the popular medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, is not the most accurate description of a healthcare professionals assessment, but it does do a good job considering it is from a drama-fiction show.
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