Almost everyone has those days right before a cold or flu sets in, where they think, “I feel like I’m getting sick.” However, severe diseases — such as stroke — don’t always give you fair warning.
Symptoms often don’t appear until you are having a stroke — and even then, many people may not know what’s happening.
This is why knowing what a stroke is, how it happens, what puts people at risk and how to lower that risk are critical to addressing this in our community.
What Does Stroke Mean for Our Community Health?
What Is Stroke?
There are three main types of stroke: ischemic, hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attacks.
Ischemic stroke accounts for about 87 percent of all strokes. It occurs when an artery to the brain becomes blocked, usually by a blood clot. This deprives the brain of blood and oxygen. Brain cells then start to die. In some cases, affected areas of the brain can become partially or completely impaired.
Hemorrhagic stroke accounts for only 15 percent of strokes, but also for 40 percent of stroke-related deaths. During this type of stroke, a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Blood leaks into the brain, creating pressure that can damage brain cells and tissue.
Hemorrhagic strokes can come from high blood pressure and aneurysms (when an artery bulges, stretches and bursts).
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” but it’s still an emergency. In this type of stroke, blood flow to the brain is blocked briefly — no more than 5 minutes. It’s often caused by a blood clot and is a warning sign of a future stroke.
What Are Stroke Symptoms?
Ischemic, hemorrhagic and TIA strokes can include any of these symptoms:
- Sudden weakness
- Inability to move
- A feeling of numbness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
- Difficulty with speaking or understanding speech
- Inability to see clearly with one or both eyes
- Difficulty with breathing
- Unsteadiness, lack of coordination, falling down
- An abrupt and extreme headache
Strokes are always a medical emergency. If you or someone nearby has any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away.
What is the Burden of Stroke in Our Community?
Stroke is a top health concern for our community. In Shawnee County, about 76 out of every 100,000 people over the age of 35 died from a stroke between 2013 and 2015 — higher than the national average of around 71 people per 100,000.
Depending on the severity of the stoke — and how quickly it is treated — the impact on a person’s daily life and ability to function independently can be tremendous. Stroke is one of the main causes of long-term, preventable disability.
Stroke killed 1,364 people in Kansas in 2015. In fact, it was the fifth-leading cause of death, topped by heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease (such as asthma) and accidents.
What Are the Keys to Addressing Stroke Community-Wide?
Many stroke risk factors are manageable. Number one is a healthy lifestyle. That starts with regular exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding smoking. If you have high blood pressure or heart disease, lifestyle changes can improve your overall cardiovascular health — and lower your risk of stroke.
Having the right health care team can also help lower your risk of having a stroke, manage treatment after a stroke and lower your risk of further strokes in the future.
Your primary care physician can assess your risk and help you develop a healthy lifestyle tailored to your personal health concerns and stroke risk factors. This may also include educating family members so that they are able to support you in making the necessary changes to take charge of not only your stroke risk, but also your overall health.
If you have had a stroke, one or many different specialists may be a part of your treatment and recovery team. These specialists can collaborate with your primary care physician to get a holistic view of your health as well as update your physician about any treatment you receive.