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Heart & Vascular

Baylor Medical Center at Garland

 
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Stroke 

What Is Stroke?

A stroke, also called a “brain attack,” is an interruption of the blood supply to any part of the brain. It happens when blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted because a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts open.

If blood flow is stopped for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get blood and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing permanent damage. While there are two classifications of stroke both have similar risk factors and symptoms.

Risk factors include: high blood pressure, diabetes, family history, heart disease, high cholesterol, head injuries, drugs and alcohol, aging and certain medications (including birth control under some circumstances).

The symptoms of stroke depend on what part of the brain is damaged. In some cases, a person may not even be aware that he or she has had a stroke. Symptoms usually develop suddenly and without warning, or they may occur on and off for the first day or two. Symptoms are usually most severe when the stroke first happens, but they may slowly get worse. 

Symptoms

  • Muscle weakness in the face, arm, or leg (usually just one side)
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Trouble speaking or understanding others who are speaking
  • Problems with eyesight to varying degrees
  • Sensation changes that affect touch and the ability to feel pain, pressure, different temperatures, or other stimuli
  • Changes in hearing
  • Change in alertness (sleepiness, unconsciousness and coma)
  • Personality, mood or emotional changes
  • Confusion or loss of memory
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Changes in taste
  • Difficulty writing or reading
  • Loss of coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Clumsiness
  • Trouble walking
  • Dizziness or abnormal sensation of movement (vertigo)
  • Lack of control over the bladder or bowels 

To Help Prevent a Stroke:

  • Avoid fatty foods. Follow a healthy, low-fat diet.
  • Do not drink more than 1 to 2 alcoholic drinks a day.
  • Exercise regularly: 30 minutes a day if you are not overweight; 60 - 90 minutes a day if you are overweight.
  • Get your blood pressure checked every 1 - 2 years, especially if high blood pressure runs in your family.
  • Have your cholesterol checked. If you are at high risk for stroke, your LDL "bad" cholesterol should be lower than 100 mg/dL. Your doctor may recommend that you try to reduce your LDL cholesterol to 70 mg/dL.
  • Follow your doctor's treatment recommendations if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
  • Quit smoking.

Aspirin therapy (81mg a day or 100mg every other day) is recommended for stroke prevention in women under 65 as long as the benefits outweigh the risks.

It should be considered for women over age 65 only if their blood pressure is controlled and the benefit is greater than the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and brain hemorrhage. Ask your doctor if aspirin is right for you.