May is Stroke Awareness Month

This month we begin the celebration of National Stroke Awareness Month. It is a wonderful opportunity to focus on, and assess our own health and learn what our risk factors are for stroke.

Its trite but very true (which is probably why it’s said so often), “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the number one cause of disability in the USA, making it certainly worth preventing, right?  Stroke is a serious condition that deserves serious attention.

There is more than one kind of stroke. There are hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes and, more common, transient ischemic attack (TIA) also referred to as a “mini-stroke.”

TIAs are short-lived, transitory – but they are an important warning sign.  Those who have a TIA are likely to have a full blown stroke at a later time, so you must seek medical attention and focus on the prevention – which everyone should do anyway.

Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a bleed into the brain typically because of high blood pressure, arteriovenous malformation, or aneurysm. Hemorrhagic strokes are less common but account for more than 30% of all stroke deaths.  Mine was a Hemorrhagic stroke.

The ischemic stroke is the most common. It is caused by a blockage, either a thrombosis or embolism that deprives an area of the brain of oxygen.

The point is, strokes may be quite different, and their recovery is also different; yet, they have one important thing in common: nearly 85% of all strokes show NO warning signs.

There is something else that they have in common (so I guess that makes two things): 80% are preventable. Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States and 140,000 of them die each year from stroke.

Do you know your risk factors?

Risk factors may be due to hereditary, lifestyle choices, health conditions, or a combination. Some common risk factors that can lead to stroke include:

  • Family History
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Can’t do much about family history (you don’t choose your ancestors, right?), but we can certainly control or modify the other three.  And by paying attention to those three, we can do a lot in preventing stroke, or handling it quickly and properly when it happens. We are not powerless. Know your risk factors.  Live healthy and happy.  Focus on what you can do – and do it before anything happens.