Washington, D.C., USA: “Stroke can happen to anyone at any time. That’s why it’s important to understand your risk”, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), also known as the Health Department wrote in a public post today, Tuesday.
“New data show that after decades of decline, progress in preventing stroke deaths has slowed. And in many cases, the prevalence of stroke risk factors is increasing among younger and middle-aged adults. This is disturbing, because about 80% of strokes are preventable”, HHS said.
“During National Stroke Awareness Month, CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention will focus on increasing awareness among adults ages 35 to 64 of stroke risk factors, signs, and symptoms” HHS added.
Stroke can happen to anyone at any time
Stroke is not just an older person’s disease. Risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes are happening at younger ages. Risk factors may not be recognized and treated in younger or middle-aged adults. There are steps that HHS recommends you can take at any age to lower your risk for stroke.
Risk Factors For Stroke
Anyone can have a stroke at any age. But certain things can increase your chances of having a stroke. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from a stroke is to understand your risk and how to control it.
While you can’t control your age or family history, you can take steps to lower your chances of having a stroke.
Here are the risk factors for stroke from the CDC which cites National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention as its source.
Conditions That Increase Risk for Stroke
Many common medical conditions can increase your chances of having a stroke. Work with your health care team to control your risk.
Previous Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack
If you have already had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a “mini-stroke,” your chances of having another stroke are higher.
High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke. It occurs when the pressure of the blood in your arteries and other blood vessels is too high.
There are often no symptoms of high blood pressure. Get your blood pressure checked often. If you have high blood pressure, lowering your blood pressure through lifestyle changes or medicine can also lower your risk for stroke.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver or found in certain foods. Your liver makes enough for your body’s needs, but we often get more cholesterol from the foods we eat. If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the arteries, including those of the brain. This can lead to narrowing of the arteries, stroke, and other problems.
A blood test can tell your doctor if you have high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (a related kind of fat) in your blood.
Common heart disorders can increase your risk for stroke. For example, coronary artery disease increases your risk for stroke, because plaque builds up in the arteries and blocks the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. Other heart conditions, such as heart valve defects, irregular heartbeat (including atrial fibrillation), and enlarged heart chambers, can cause blood clots that may break loose and cause a stroke.
Diabetes increases your risk for stroke. Your body needs glucose (sugar) for energy. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps move glucose from the food you eat to your body’s cells. If you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin, can’t use its own insulin as well as it should, or both.
Diabetes causes sugars to build up in the blood and prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to the various parts of your body, including your brain. High blood pressure is also common in people with diabetes. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and is the main cause for increased risk of stroke among people with diabetes.
Talk to your doctor about ways to keep diabetes under control.
Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder linked to ischemic stroke that affects mainly black and Hispanic children. The disease causes some red blood cells to form an abnormal sickle shape. A stroke can happen if sickle cells get stuck in a blood vessel and block the flow of blood to the brain.
Behaviors That Increase Risk for Stroke
Your lifestyle choices – unhealthy diet, physical Inactivity, obesity, too much alcohol and tobacco use – can increase your chances of having a stroke. To lower your risk, your doctor may suggest changes to your lifestyle. The good news is that healthy behaviors can lower your risk for stroke.
Family History and Other Characteristics That Increase Risk for Stroke
Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, stroke, and other related conditions. Several genetic disorders can cause a stroke, including sickle cell disease. People with a family history of stroke are also likely to share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk.
The older you are, the more likely you are to have a stroke. The chance of having a stroke about doubles every 10 years after age 55. Although stroke is common among older adults, many people younger than 65 years also have strokes.
In fact, about one in seven strokes occur in adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 49.2 Experts think younger people are having more strokes because more young people are obese and have high blood pressure and diabetes. Read more about the younger face of stroke.
Male Or Female
Stroke is more common in women than men, and women of all ages are more likely than men to die from stroke. Pregnancy and use of birth control pills pose special stroke risks for women.
Race or Ethnicity
Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaska Natives may be more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanic whites or Asians. The risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks as for whites. Blacks are also more likely to die from stroke than whites are.
Signs Of Stroke
Stroke can look different for everyone. Numbness, confusion, trouble seeing, and trouble walking are just a few indicators that you or someone you know may be having a stroke. Knowing the common stroke warning signs and symptoms can help save someone’s life—maybe even your own.
Act Fast On Stroke
Every minute counts when you or someone you know is having a stroke; that’s why it’s important to act F.A.S.T. and call 9-1-1 right away. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin lifesaving treatment on the way to the emergency room.
Acting F.A.S.T. can help stroke patients get the treatments they desperately need. The stroke treatments that work best are available only if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within 3 hours of the first symptoms. Stroke patients may not be eligible for these if they don’t arrive at the hospital in time.
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do the following simple test:
F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.
What Happens at the Hospital
At the hospital, health professionals will ask about your medical history and about the time your symptoms started. Brain scans will show what type of stroke you had. You may also work with a neurologist who treats brain disorders, a neurosurgeon that performs surgery on the brain, or a specialist in another area of medicine.
If you get to the hospital within 3 hours of the first symptoms of an ischemic stroke, you may get a type of medicine called a thrombolytic (a “clot-busting” drug) to break up blood clots. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a thrombolytic.
tPA improves the chances of recovering from a stroke. Studies show that patients with ischemic strokes who receive tPA are more likely to recover fully or have less disability than patients who do not receive the drug.2,3 Patients treated with tPA are also less likely to need long-term care in a nursing home.4 Unfortunately, many stroke victims don’t get to the hospital in time for tPA treatment. This is why it’s so important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke right away and call 9-1-1.
Medicine, surgery, or other procedures may be needed to stop the bleeding and save brain tissue. For example:
- Endovascular procedures. Endovascular procedures may be used to treat certain hemorrhagic strokes. The doctor inserts a long tube through a major artery in the leg or arm and then guides the tube to the site of the weak spot or break in a blood vessel. The tube is then used to install a device, such as a coil, to repair the damage or prevent bleeding.
- Surgical treatment. Hemorrhagic strokes may be treated with surgery. If the bleeding is caused by a ruptured aneurysm, a metal clip may be put in place to stop the blood loss.
If you have had a stroke, you are at high risk for another stroke:
- 1 of 4 stroke survivors has another stroke within 5 years.
- The risk of stroke within 90 days of a TIA may be as high as 17%, with the greatest risk during the first week.
That’s why it’s important to treat the underlying causes of stroke, including heart disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (fast, irregular heartbeat), high cholesterol, and diabetes. Your doctor may give you medications or tell you to change your diet, exercise, or adopt other healthy lifestyle habits. Surgery may also be helpful in some cases.
After a stroke, you may need rehabilitation (rehab) to help you recover. Before you are discharged from the hospital, social workers can help you find care services and caregiver support to continue your long-term recovery. It is important to work with your health care team to find out the reasons for your stroke and take steps to prevent another stroke.