Stroke survivor Deean Johnson smiles in the direction of her husband as she uses putty to excercise her right hand
Everyone's heard the phrase "heart attack." A stroke is a brain attack. Plaque buildup and narrowing or weakening of the arteries in the brain can block them or cause them to burst.
A stroke knows no boundaries. People of every age, sex and race can have one, although the incidence is greater among American Indians and African Americans than whites, and it's greater among women than men overall. Experts estimate that nearly 800,000 strokes will occur in the United States this year.
When a stroke occurs, it's important to seek medical treatment — and rehabilitation therapy — as soon as possible. New medicines and new rehabilitation technologies administered quickly are important to greater recovery, says Dr. Hillary Hawkins, medical director of Sheltering Arms Hospital in Hanover County.
The National Stroke Association (stroke.org) says that up to 80 percent of strokes — 640,000 — are preventable by reducing risk factors. Those include high blood pressure, smoking, heavy drinking of alcohol, high cholesterol, uncontrolled blood sugar, inactivity, high sodium and/or high fat diets. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke.
Between 1999 and 2007, the death rate from strokes fell 32 percent, according to 2007 preliminary mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Still, strokes cause about 137,000 Americans to die each year.
If you've experienced and quickly recovered from symptoms such as a severe headache, possibly combined with sudden slurred speech, loss of vision, or muscle weakness in the face or extremities, take them as a serious warning sign. These are symptoms of a mini-stroke, called a TIA or transient ischemic attack. Seek medical attention, even though the symptoms generally quickly disappear with no long-term effect. The National Stroke Association reports that up to 40 percent of all people who have a TIA eventually experience a stroke.