What is a stroke? A stroke, or brain attack, happens when blood flow to your brain is stopped. It is an emergency. Call 911 if you think you might be having a stroke or stroke symptoms.

The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to work well. If blood supply is stopped even for a short time, this can cause problems. Brain cells begin to die after just a few minutes without blood or oxygen.

When brain cells die, brain function is lost. You may not be able to do things that are controled by that part of the brain. For example, a stroke may affect your ability to:

— Move.

— Speak.

— Eat, drink, and swallow.

— See clearly.

— Think and remember.

— Control your bowel and bladder.

— Control your emotions.

— Control other vital body functions.

A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. A stroke is an emergency. It is important to know the signs of a stroke and get help quickly. Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Treatment is most effective when started right away.

Stroke symptoms may happen suddenly. Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:

— Weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body.

— Having trouble speaking or understanding.

— Problems with vision, such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes.

— Dizziness or problems with balance or coordination.

— Problems with movement or walking.

— Fainting (loss of consciousness) or seizure.

— Severe headaches with no known cause, especially if they happen suddenly.

Other less common symptoms of stroke may include:

— Sudden nausea or vomiting not caused by a viral illness.

— Brief loss or change of consciousness, such as fainting, confusion, seizures or coma.

— Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), called a mini-stroke. A TIA can cause many of the same symptoms as a stroke. But TIA symptoms are passing. They can last for a few minutes or up to 24 hours. Call for medical help right away if you think someone is having a TIA. It may be a warning sign that a stroke is about to occur. But not all TIAs are followed by a stroke.

Get help FAST. FAST is an easy way to remember the signs of a stroke. When you see these signs, you will know you need to call 911 fast. FAST stands for:

F — Face drooping. One side of the face is drooping or numb. When the person smiles, the smile is uneven.

A — Arm weakness. One arm is weak or numb. When the person lifts both arms at the same time, one arm may drift downward.

S — Speech difficulty. You may hear slurred speech or difficulty speaking. The person cannot repeat a simple sentence correctly when asked.

T — Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, call 911 right away. Call even if the symptom goes away. Make note of the time the symptoms first appeared.

What can I do to prevent a stroke? Know your risk for stroke. Many stroke risk factors can be changed, treated or medically modified. Some things you can do to control your risk factors are listed below.

A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk for stroke. That includes the following:

— Stop smoking if you smoke.

— Make healthy food choices. Be sure to get the recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose foods that are low in animal fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.

— Stay at a healthy weight.

— Be physically active.

— Limit alcohol use.

Take your medicines as instructed by your health care provider. The following medicines can help prevent stroke:

— Blood-thinning medicines (anticoagulants) help prevent blood clots from forming. If you take a blood thinner, you may need regular blood tests.

— Antiplatelets, such as aspirin, are prescribed for many stroke patients. They make blood clots less likely to form. Aspirin is available over the counter.

— Blood-pressure medicines help lower high blood pressure. You may need to take more than one blood-pressure medicine.

— Cholesterol-lowering drugs make plaque less likely to build up in your artery walls, which can reduce the risk for stroke.

— Heart medicines can treat certain heart problems that increase your risk of stroke.

— Diabetes medicines adjust blood-sugar levels. This can prevent problems that lead to stroke.

For more information, call Rutland Regional Neurology Center, a department of Rutland Regional Medical Center at 775-4266.

This week’s Health Talk was submitted by Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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