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Act FAST when it comes to Strokes

Stoke Awareness Month


What is a stroke?

A stroke is a common term that is more often used to describe an injury to the brain, caused by a problem with the blood vessels in the brain. There are two different kinds of strokes:

If you want to think of it in visual terms, picture your blood vessels as streets, and the blood flow as cars. An ischemic stroke is when there’s a traffic jam caused by a car accident, and a hemorrhagic stroke is like a traffic jam caused by street being destroyed by an earthquake.


What causes a stroke?

Several factors are to blame for strokes, but here are the most common:

More than just a number, blood pressure is a measurement of how forcefully your blood is moving through your vessels. If it gets high enough, it can cause your blood vessels to spasm shut or even rupture.

What does blood sugar have to do with blood vessels? A whole lot. High levels of blood sugar caused from diabetes can lead to more inflammation in the small blood vessels in the brain, making them more prone to damage and blockage.

Cholesterol is a component of fat circulating in your blood that often gets stuck to the walls of your blood vessels. Think of them like the deposits that cause your kitchen sink to get clogged. 

Smoking is one of the major risk factors for nearly all things that can go wrong in the body, and strokes are no exception. The components of tobacco make it even more likely for blood vessels to develop fatty deposits inside, creating a similar effect as described above with high cholesterol. Additionally, the nicotine in tobacco products increases your blood pressure, and is more likely to cause your blood vessels to spasm, or close, leading to a stroke


Depending on what part of the brain is affected, a stroke can appear differently. You can remember the most common signs, and what to keep in mind if you think someone is having a stroke with the acronym: F.A.S.T.

             F: facial droop (one side of the face hangs lower than the other).

             A: arm weakness (usually an inability to keep one arm raised compared to the other).

             S: speech changes (slurred speech, inability to find words, or change in sound of speech).

             T: time (the time it’s been since symptoms started dictates how a stroke can be treated).


How do you treat a stroke?

If you think someone is having a stroke, it’s vital to get them to the emergency department as soon as possible. If someone is in fact having a stroke, time is brain. The more time that goes by, the higher the chance of permanent brain injury.

Once a stroke has set in, the focus is on restoring function through rehabilitative efforts. This is when a team based medical approach comes into play, and the use of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, etc. are instrumental in helping a stroke patient regain as much function as possible.


How can I prevent a stroke?

Strokes are thankfully preventable. By controlling the risk factors stated above through diet, exercise, medication, and close monitoring in coordination with your primary care provider, there’s a very good chance to avoid a stroke altogether. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that leading up to the stroke itself, the processes behind it are silent. Especially for that reason, it’s so important to maintain a good relationship with your primary care provider, and be as active as possible in your healthcare journey.


Burgaw Medical Center, PC

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