Stroke is one of the most common and dangerous cardiovascular complications affecting Americans, with roughly 800,000 cases occurring annual in the United States. This medical condition causes one in six cardiovascular deaths nationwide – an American dies from a stroke roughly every four minutes – and is also one of the leading causes of long-term disability in older adults.
While this condition primarily affects people over the age of 55 or who have specific genetic and lifestyle risk factors, strokes are not limited to any specific age group or demographic cohort. They can happen to anyone, with around three-quarters of stroke cases occurring in patients who have not had one in the past. This is why it’s so important to be able to identify the warning signs and know whether or not you may be having a stroke or in danger of suffering from one in the future.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke is a medical condition which takes place when an interruption in bloodflow to the brain causes brain cells to die from deprivation of oxygen and nutrients. The primary categories of stroke are ischemic (caused by narrowing or blockages of the blood vessels) and hemorrhagic (caused by blood vessels breaking or leaking). Even when non-fatal, strokes can cause a wide variety of very severe side effects, including reduced mobility, difficulty speaking, and physical pain.
What Are the Risk Factors for Stroke?
There are a number of factors which may increase your risk of stroke, some which are within your control and others which are not. Lifestyle factors include obesity, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, and abuse of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs such as cocaine. Your risk also increases significantly if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or a heart condition like atrial fibrillation. Studies have shown that COVID-19 can contribute to the likelihood of a stroke as well.
Demographics also come into play when evaluating risk – strokes most commonly affect seniors, are more frequent in men than women, and impact black people more often than other races. Finally, it’s important to know whether you have a family history of stroke, as genetics are a key pre-existing condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Stroke?
If you or someone you know may be having a stroke, it’s important to remember the acronym FAST:
- Face: Drooping or sagging of the face is one of the most identifiable symptoms of stroke, most noticeable when attempting to smile.
- Arms: A stroke will similarly affect the mobility of your arms. Try to lift both arms over your head to see if there is sagging or difficulty.
- Speech: If speech comes out in a slurred, strange, or nonsensical manner, this may also be an indication of stroke.
- Time: Is of the essence! A stroke is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is experiencing onset of these symptoms, it is important to call 911 immediately to minimize risk of death or long-term disability.
Stroke Prevention / Stroke Screenings at Manhattan Cardiology
Some of the most common treatments for stroke prevention are simple lifestyle modifications like quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, improving diet, and getting regular exercise. Treatment of contributing issues such as heart disease and obstructive sleep apnea may also be an important component of avoiding potential complications.
Above all, it’s important to get regular checkups to know whether you may be at risk, especially as you get older. Manhattan Cardiology offers stroke screenings to allow you to assess your risk and take appropriate action to protect your health. Visit our online portal to schedule an appointment today.