In honor of Stroke Awareness Month so we asked our Stroke Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Kate Skeels, MSN, FNP-C, shares information about the various types of stroke, how to recognize a stroke and how a stroke can be prevented.
What is a stroke?
Blood vessels in our body carry blood that contains oxygen and nutrients to our brain. Oxygen and nutrients are necessary for our brain to function. A stroke is an injury to a blood vessel within the brain. When the blood vessel becomes injured, oxygen and nutrients are not able to be brought to the specific part of our brain that the blood vessel supplies. As a result, that part of the brain will begin to die and can become permanently damaged. When a part of our brain becomes damaged, it is not able to carry out its normal function. Therefore, depending on where in the brain is damaged; a person may have difficulty speaking, understanding others, moving one side of their body, loss of their vision, and more.
There are two types of strokes; ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. Ischemia is a medical term that means an inadequate blood supply. Therefore, an ischemic stroke occurs when there is a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. This blocks blood carrying oxygen and nutrients from reaching the area of the brain that the blood vessel supplies. The blockage can be caused by a blood clot that is formed in the heart and then travels to the brain, from cholesterol plaque buildup in the blood vessels, or when small vessels in our brain become damaged causing them to collapse. A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain burst or ruptures, thereby impeding blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by high blood pressure or abnormalities of the blood vessels, such as an aneurysm.
What are some common sign or symptoms of a stroke?
To help you remember some common stroke symptoms think BE FAST.
B: Balance- is there a sudden loss of balance, dizziness, or trouble walking?
E: Eyes- is there any change in vision; any blurry vision, double vision, vision loss in one or both eyes?
F: Face- is there a change in the smile, or any facial weakness or asymmetry?
A: Arm- is there any weakness in one or both arms or legs?
S: Speech- is it suddenly difficult to speak or understand what is being said?
T: Time- it’s time to act! Brain is time. Call 911 immediately!
How can I prevent a stroke?
Stroke can be prevented! According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. It is important to decrease your stroke risk factors. You can do this by:
- Stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, etc. can double your risk for stroke.
- Lower your blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and prescribed medications, you should make sure you take them as your doctor prescribed. It is important to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. You can also help to lower your blood pressure through a healthy diet and exercise.
- Manage high cholesterol. If you have been prescribed medications to help with high cholesterol you should take your medications as your doctor prescribed. You can also help control your cholesterol by eating a balanced diet, low-fat diet.
- Increase your physical activity. Being active will help you maintain a healthy weight, a healthy blood pressure, and can lower your cholesterol. Even a little exercise is helpful! Exercise can be a brisk walk, riding a bike, going for a swim, or even doing yard work.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Drink in moderation. Drinking more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day can increase your risk of stroke.