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Stroke: Putting It All Together

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 16:47

Here is a summary of the important facts and information related to stroke.

  • A brain attack or stroke happens when a part of the brain is damaged by a change in blood flow. This change can happen if something blocks the flow of blood to the brain or if a blood vessel bursts and causes bleeding in the brain.
  • In many cases, a stroke can happen without warning. But some people do experience "mini-strokes," called TIAs, which are exactly like a stroke but last only a short time. A TIA, like a stroke, is considered a medical emergency and should never be ignored.
  • The signs of stroke are sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, sudden loss of vision or speech, sudden severe headaches, or unexplained dizziness that comes on quickly.
  • Some risk factors for stroke, such as age and race, cannot be changed. But there are steps you can take to reduce other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking.
  • If a brain attack does happen, medical treatments can be given in the hospital emergency department. These treatments have shown great success in minimizing damage to the brain. The key is to get medical help immediately. Too often, people having a stroke wait for hours before seeking help.
  • A stroke can cause trouble speaking or seeing, memory difficulties, paralysis or weakness, difficulty eating, and mood changes. The good news is that therapies are available to help teach the brain skills it might have lost. Many people can make a full recovery and resume a fulfilling life after a stroke.
  • The best way to prevent stroke is to reduce risk factors - improve diet, keep diabetes under control, quit smoking, and get enough exercise. Medication is also available to help prevent stroke. The most frequently used preventive medication is aspirin, which helps prevent blood clots.
  • The long-term outlook for people who have had a stroke is more hopeful than ever before. Because of advances in treatment, more people are surviving strokes, and because of advances in rehabilitation, more people are conquering the disabilities that can be caused by a stroke.

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