Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Recognizing Risk Factors and Warning Signs of a Stroke

May is American Stroke Awareness Month and a great time to brush up on stroke knowledge. Understanding risk factors can help you to make healthier decisions and be more alert for warning signs. Getting help immediately when warning signs occur could save your life and help reduce the effects.
There are some risk factors that are out of your control while others you can do something about. Some uncontrollable factors include:

  • Age: Although strokes can occur at any age, they are more common in older adults.
  • Family history: There may be some genetic and lifestyle components that contribute to stroke risk running in families.
  • Gender: Both men and women can experience a stroke, but they tend to be more common in men and more fatal in women.

Risk factors that you can help control include:

  • Smoking: Smoking can increase blockage of the carotid artery which reduces blood flow. It also decreases the amount of oxygen that is able to make its way to the brain and thickens the blood increasing risk of clots.
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol: There are many ways to keep blood pressure and cholesterol under control through changes in diet and exercise, as well as taking certain medications.
  • Heart disease: Heart conditions can cause blockages or blood clots in the arteries and put strain on the heart. Medication can help prevent clots from forming. Those who have already had a stroke or who have congenital heart defects are also at higher risk.

Knowing your risk factors can help you to become more proactive in controlling them as best you can. Strokes can occur quickly and you may not realize that you or a loved one is having one. Recognizing warning signs can allow you to act more quickly to get help and call 9-1-1.

The American Stroke Association encourages people to remember the acronym F.A.S.T.:

Face Drooping: Check to see if one side of their face appears to sag more than the other. A simple test is to have them smile. If one side does not raise up, this could be a sign of trouble.

Arm Weakness: Ask the person to raise both of their arms up straight out from their shoulders. In normal circumstances both should stay up. If one is slowly lowering, it could be a sign of a stroke.

Speech Difficulty: During a stroke, their speech may be garbled or difficult to understand. They may also have trouble speaking at all.

Time to call 9-1-1: If any of these symptoms are evident, it is time to call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital. Even if they are feeling better, they still need to go and get checked out.

Other warning signs include trouble seeing, loss of balance, dizziness, severe headache, confusion, or sudden numbness in the arms, legs, or face. The more quickly you are able to get the person help, the better off they may be. It can make a difference in the impact the stroke has as well as their recovery.

If your loved one has had a stroke which has made daily activities more difficult, assistance from an in-home caregiver can be just the support they need to maintain their independence. Always Best Care of Asheville-Hendersonville can offer assistance with activities around the home, medication management, errands, basic hygiene, and supportive companionship. Call (828) 989-7263 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help following a stroke.  

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