One out of every 18 deaths is caused by stroke, the #4 killer of men and women in this country. The American Stroke Association says that on average, stroke occurs every 40 seconds, and someone dies of stroke every four minutes. Given these figures, it’s important to know the cause, symptoms, what to do if stroke is suspected, and ways to protect against stroke.
A stroke happens when blood supply to the brain is suddenly interrupted, either by a clot or rupture in a blood vessel. When the brain can’t get the blood, oxygen and nutrients it needs, brain and nerve cells stop working and die rapidly, which leads to a breakdown in functions to the parts of the body they control.
The effects of stroke depend on how many cells are lost, the part of the brain affected and other factors, so symptoms vary. Although stroke is sometimes marked by a severe headache, it can also be painless. According to the American Stroke Association, symptoms occur suddenly and can include:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, and often on one side of the body
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause
IF STROKE IS SUSPECTED
The American Stroke Association has an easy-to-remember acronym, FAST, which stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911. Stroke is a medical emergency, and timing is important in treatment. Do not ignore the warning signs; call 911 immediately. At Torrance Memorial, a specialized stroke care team is waiting at the emergency room to begin intensive procedures to treat stroke.
High blood pressure is the #1 cause of stroke. Other risk factors include high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, excessive drinking and an unhealthy diet. A healthy lifestyle with physical activity—keeping risk factors in check—is important. While stroke risk increases with age, stroke can affect people of any age, gender or nationality. However, those with a family history of stroke, or those who have had a prior stroke, are at greater risk.
For more information about stroke, visit strokeassociation.org and torrancememorial.org/StrokeCenter.