What Is Stroke? Learn the Signs and Symptoms to Save a Life


Every 40 seconds, some in America has a stroke. It’s the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of long- term disability. However, Amina S. Qazi, DO, at St. Joseph Cardiology, shares, “Stroke is largely preventable.”

May is American Stroke Month. A month dedicated to help end stroke by heightening awareness of its warning signs and symptoms. Important facts:

  • According to the World Health Organization, there are 80 million stroke survivors worldwide
  • One in four people older than 25 will experience a stroke in their lifetime
  • There are more than 5 million stroke-related deaths annually
  • Stroke kills twice as many women as breast
  • Stroke can happen at any age
  • At least 80% of strokes could be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes

What Causes Stroke?
“A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked, causing brain cells to die from lack of oxygen and nutrients. This is a result of either something blocking an artery to the brain or a blood vessel in the brain breaking open and leaking blood into the brain’s tissue, causing pressure in the brain,” says Dr. Qazi. “It’s important to note some people may only experience a temporary blockage of blood flow with no permanent brain damage, also known as transient ischemic attack or TIA, which puts them at higher risk of stroke.”

What Are Risk Factors for Stroke?
The most significant risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure, which can be controlled. Other common risk factors that can be controlled or treated include:

  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Heavy alcohol use

Dr. Qazi adds, “Proactively addressing both medical conditions and behaviors can help prevent or decrease your risk for stroke.”

How Can You Reduce Your Stroke Risk?

  • Work closely with your primary care provider
  • Stop smoking and other tobacco use
  • Consume alcohol in moderation
  • Eat a healthy diet, reduce saturated fats and decrease your sodium intake
  • Exercise regularly
  • Monitor your blood pressure

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke?

  • Sudden NUMBNESS or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden CONFUSION, trouble speakng or understanding speech
  • Sudden TROUBLE SEEING in one or both eyes
  • Sudden TROUBLE WALKING, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden SEVERE HEADACHE with no known cause

Quick Treatment is Critical
“Stroke treatment depends on how quickly a stroke victim gets to a hospital to be evaluated,” says Dr. Qazi. “Calling 911 is the very best way to get to the hospital quickly and safely. Emergency medical personnel will call ahead, and stroke care providers will be ready to help.”

Do You Have Concerns?
If you have concerns about your overall health or risk of stroke, please share them with your St. Joseph Healthcare primary care provider.

(207) 907-1000
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