Each year about 795,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke. It is estimated that someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, and every four minutes someone dies of a stroke. For those who survive their stroke, two-thirds will have some sort of disability as a result, making stroke the leading cause of adult long-term disability. Despite these alarming numbers, most Americans are unable to identify the signs of a stroke. With May recognized as National Stroke Awareness Month, Honesto Poblete, MD, with RWJ Vein & Vascular Surgery, a RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group provider, affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton offers some insight on stroke prevention and what to do if you or a loved one start experiencing stroke symptoms.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is an area of injury to the brain, which can result in serious, long-term effects. A stroke occurs when a blood clot or blood vessel rupture interrupts blood flow to the brain, causing brain cells to die. There are two major types of stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and leaks blood into the brain. On the other hand, an ischemic stroke is when arteries are blocked by either a blood clot or a build-up of fatty deposits. Ischemic strokes are most common.
How do I know if I’m having a stroke?
When recognized and treated immediately, the effects of a stroke can be limited. The easiest way to recognize the sudden signs and symptoms of stoke is by learning the F.A.S.T warning signs. The F is for face, look for a facial droop on one side of their face. A is for arms. Be aware if you or someone else has sudden weakness in one arm. The S is for speech – slurred speech or not being able to get your words out properly. And finally, the T is for time. Time is essential to treating a stroke and you should immediately call 911 if you recognize any stroke symptoms.
What can I do to prevent a stroke?
Remember to monitor your blood pressure. Most people who have a stroke have high blood pressure and now new guidelines tell us that high blood pressure is defined as 130/80 or above. A healthy amount of exercise helps to lower blood pressure as well. Additionally, try to quit smoking as soon as possible because smoking cigarettes causes direct damage to the blood vessels and can increase the possibility of blockage occurring in the brain’s blood vessels. Try to limit drinking in excess as well. Finally, choose foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
If I have a stroke, will I likely have another?
With one in four stroke survivors at risk for having another, it is important to understand that strokes can be prevented. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented and we encourage people to understand and manage the many health and lifestyle factors that can decrease the risk of stroke. If you have already had a stroke in the past, follow all the regular prevention tips, but also talk to your doctor about creating a comprehensive plan to prevent another from occurring.
What should I do if I or a loved one starts having a stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, call 911 and get them to the nearest hospital immediately.
Dr. Poblete is board certified in both general and vascular surgery, with advanced training in minimally invasive venous and arterial surgery, vascular ultrasound interpretation, and endovascular repair of the aortic aneurysm. He specializes in comprehensive treatment of arterial and venous disorders with a focus on minimally invasive and endovascular technology. Dr. Poblete is published in the field of vascular surgery and currently serves as president of the Vascular Society of NJ. For more information, or to make an appointment, call (609) 570-2071.