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Every 40 seconds someone in the US has a stroke and every 4 minutes someone dies of one, but do you know what to look for to recognize a stroke? Each year approximately 795,000 people in the United States suffer from a stroke and three out of four of these cases are first time strokes. While the elderly are most at risk, a stroke can affect anyone, especially those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and those who smoke.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is defined medically as, the sudden death of brain cells due to a lack of oxygen caused by a blockage of blood flow or rupture of an artery. It is important to know that there are three kinds of strokes: Ischemic (clots), Hemorrhagic (bleeds), and TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack).

Ischemic Strokes
An Ischemic stroke occurs as the result of blockage within a blood vessel. This blockage restricts blood flow to the brain causing cell death of brain tissues. These types account for 87% of all strokes and are caused by fatty deposits that clot blood vessels.

Hemorrhagic Strokes
Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures, causing bleeding in the brain. The most common cause of these strokes is uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure). Hemorrhagic strokes account for 15% of stroke cases.

Transient Ischemic Attacks are often referred to as “mini strokes” because they are relatively benign and seldom leave permanent damage. TIAs are considered warning strokes, but should not be ignored as they often signal the likelihood of future strokes. Much like Ischemic, these strokes are caused due to clotting, but this clot dissolves or is dislodged, thus stopping symptoms. These strokes typically last less than five minutes, but two thirds of people who experience a TIA go on to have a severe stroke within a year, so it is important to seek treatment even if symptoms subside.

How to Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T

Much like with heart attacks, there are a number of warning signs that can appear at the onset of a stroke and the sooner you can recognize them, the more likely you will survive and limit damage. The infographic below depicts four important signs to look for, as well as signs that are unique in women, who are two times more likely to die from a stroke than of breast cancer.

Warning Signs of a Stroke Infographic

In addition to these, it is important to remember the acronym F.A.S.T, which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time to call 911. The F.A.S.T areas are very common signs to diagnose if someone is in need of emergency medical attention, if the face is drooping, the arms are weak or numb, or the speech is slurred, it is time to call 911 for help.

Risk Factors

The biggest factors of strokes are related to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, poor nutrition, stress, use of drugs (such as cocaine, amphetamines, and steroids), over consumption of alcohol, and use of estrogen birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.

While strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, by knowing the signs and acting on them quickly, you are able to greatly increase the chance of surviving. Although there are several unchangeable factors that increase your risk of having a stroke, such as race, ethnicity, family history, and age, you can reduce the likelihood of strokes by eating a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity, as well as kicking bad habits like smoking or drug use. In addition to lowering your risk, you can protect you and your loved ones by ensuring your health insurance will cover you. If you have any questions about coverage or would like a free quote, please call 724-929-2300 to talk with our friendly insurance experts about your specific needs and concerns.