Getting medical help right away for a stroke is critical. To learn more about the Stroke Center, click here.
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. That's the bad news. The good news is, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. "It's true," says Dawn Kleindorfer, MD, a neurologist and a spokeswoman for the National Stroke Association. "You can take steps to limit your risk." As with anything, the first line of defense is knowledge.
Take control by learning the facts.
Blood vessels that carry oxygen to the brain become blocked or burst. When the brain cannot get enough oxygen, cells begin to die, causing disability and sometimes death.
Nearly 80 percent are caused by a blockage from a blood clot or plaque, Kleindorfer says. The other 20 percent result from bleeding.
Anyone, at any age, can have a stroke. Certain factors, including being 55 and older and being male, put you at greater risk.
Control high-risk factors: Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol. Don't smoke. Maintain a healthy weight.
Recognizing a stroke and seeking immediate treatment are keys to reducing the damaging effects. If you notice these sudden symptoms, call 911 immediately; do not drive to the hospital:
Yes, but get to the hospital quickly. "Some people will qualify for clot-buster drugs, if they arrive early enough," Kleindorfer says. Receiving these drugs early can reduce the stroke's permanent effects and make a full recovery more likely.
Patients should take part in a stroke rehabilitation program—which consists of physical, occupational and speech therapy—as soon as they're strong enough. "Delaying rehab for even several days can make a difference," Kleindorfer says.