Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: May 2016 - Stroke

    May 20, 2016

    How do strokes affect people?
    Strokes are one of the leading causes of death and disability in the world. Depending on which part of the brain, how much of the brain is affected, or how long the patient goes without treatment, one can lose important brain functions like speaking, walking, or using one’s arm or hand. Others can have only minor effects or no lasting damages at all.

    Stroke data in the U.S.A.

    • Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke.
    • Every 4 minutes someone dies from stroke.
    • Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability.

    How can you tell if someone is having a stroke?
    An easy way to remember the signs of a stroke is to think of the word "FAST". Each letter in the word stands for one of the things you should watch for:

    • Face: Does the person's face look uneven or does it droop on one side?
    • Arm: Does the person have weakness or numbness in one or both arms? Does one arm drift down if the person tries to hold both arms out?
    • Speech: Is the person having trouble speaking? Does his or her speech sound strange?
    • Time: If you notice any of these stroke signs, call 911 immediately. You need to act FAST. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery.

    How are strokes treated?
    The first step is to get to the hospital very quickly! The right treatment will depend on which kind of stroke the person is having.

    • People whose strokes are caused by clogged arteries need treatments that help reopen these arteries, and medicines to prevent new blood clots from forming. These treatments can help a person recover and help prevent future strokes.
    • People whose strokes are caused by bleeding in the brain might have to stop medicines that thin the blood, or sometimes have surgery to repair the artery and stop the bleeding.

    Can strokes be prevented?
    Many strokes CAN be prevented, though not all. You can greatly lower your chance of having a stroke by:

    • Taking your medicines exactly as directed. Medicines that are especially important in preventing strokes include:
      • Blood pressure medicines
      • Medicines called statins, which lower cholesterol
      • Medicines to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin or blood thinners
      • Medicines that help to keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible (if you have diabetes)
    • Making lifestyle changes:
      • Stop smoking
      • Get regular exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week
      • Lose weight, if you are overweight
      • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, as well as low in meats, sweets, and processed grains (such as white bread or white rice)
      • Eat less salt (sodium)
      • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
        • If you are a woman, do not drink more than 1 drink a day
        • If you are a man, do not drink more than 2 drinks a day
    • Looking into surgery: For a small group of people, surgery can sometimes help prevent strokes by opening clogged arteries in the neck.
    • Being aware of a possible warning sign that you are having a stroke called a TIA, or Transient Ischemic Attack. A TIA happens when an artery in the brain gets clogged or closes off and then reopens on its own. TIA can mimic stroke-like symptoms but last less than 24 hours. This does not damage the brain but is a warning sign that you are at high risk for having a stroke.

    See your doctor immediately and take steps to prevent having a stroke. Do not ignore the symptoms of a stroke even if they go away!

    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:
    Treating your high blood pressure and your diabetes is the best way to protect yourself or someone you love from the devastating effects of a stroke. See your doctor regularly and do not miss taking your medications.

    To learn more:

    American Stroke Association
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    National Stroke Association  

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