Don’t Miss the Warning Signs of a Stroke

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is responsible for more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease. Somewhere in the blood vessels that feed our brains, blood flow is blocked and brain cells are starved of oxygen, sugar, and other factors they need to survive. Usually, the problem is a blood clot or buildup of plaque in the vessels. Women are slightly more prone to strokes than men, and people of African-American descent have almost double the risk compared to Caucasians.

“Many conditions can damage blood vessels on the inside, leading to more of the plaques that can block blood flow in those vessels” says Josef Lowe, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at UH Portage Medical Center. There are ways to help reduce the risk of having a stroke.

  • High blood pressure is a main contributor to stroke and is the most important risk factor. Is your blood pressure under control?
  • High cholesterol and high blood sugar are also factors to an increased stroke risk.
  • Smoking constricts all the blood vessels. A constricted blood vessel is more likely to form clots. Smoking also damages the lining of all blood vessels, leading to more plaques.
  • Consuming too much alcohol contributes to risk. It’s recommended that men drink no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women limit their alcohol consumption to one per day. A drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or a  ounce shot of hard liquor.
  • Obesity also damages blood vessels. Often, losing even 10 pounds can make a big difference. Stroke can happen to anyone at any time – When a stroke occurs, as many as two million brain cells can die every minute. The more time from stroke to treatment, the more brain cells are lost. “If you experience sudden loss of balance or coordination, double, blurry, or sudden loss of vision, face drooping, arm weakness or numbness, and difficulty with speech, you should call 9-1-1 immediately,” says Dr. Lowe.

UH Portage Medical Center operates a 24/7 emergency department, led by a new group of emergency medicine providers focusing on high-quality emergency care and efficient patient flow. UH Portage is designated as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission and has received the American Heart Association 2019 Stroke GOLD PLUS award for stroke care.

FAST is a simple reminder of the danger signs of a stroke:

  • FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?
  • TIME – If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Call 9-1-1 or get to the hospital fast.