What is a Stroke?

February 12, 2020

Practical Information from the Desk of Anne T. Rolfe, DPT, Director of McLean Post-Acute & Rehabilitation

A stroke causes brain tissue to die, which can lead to brain damage, disability, and death. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States as reported by the Center of Disease Control, and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. You can greatly reduce your risk for stroke by understanding if you are at risk and then making lifestyle changes.

What Causes a Stroke?

A stroke happens in one of two ways:

  • Ischemic stroke—when the blood supply to the brain is blocked
  • Hemorrhagic stroke—when a blood vessel in the brain bursts
Stroke Risk Factors

Every year, about 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke—and about 1 out of 4 of those strokes are recurrent strokes. Having one stroke means you have a greater risk of having another (or recurrent) stroke.

Make lifestyle changes

High blood pressure is the single most important treatable risk factor for stroke. Preventing, diagnosing, and controlling it through lifestyle changes and medicine are critical to reducing your risks.  Other steps to you can take to reduce the risk of a stroke are:

  • Eat a healthy diet low in sodium with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be physically active
  • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Prevent or manage your other health conditions, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity
What are the signs and symptoms that someone is having a stroke?

An easy way to remember the most common signs of a stroke and how to respond is with the FAST stroke acronym:

F = Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?

A = Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?

T = Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.

How is it treated?

If you have a stroke, you may receive emergency care, treatment to prevent another one from occurring, rehabilitation to help you relearn the skills you may have lost because of the stroke, or all three. McLean’s experienced, integrated team understands the importance of meeting your unique needs and goals to smoothly transition from hospital to home. They keep you at the center of the decision process and work with you, your family, and your physician to align a plan of care to address your specific condition.

Talk with your doctor about the best ways to reduce your stroke risk, and always take medicines as prescribed.

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