Stroke 101: Part 2

By Marilyn Murray Willison

May 12, 2017 5 min read

Last week, I shared with you the important warning signs and implications of a stroke. Today I'm giving you some statistics that will help you understand that there are concrete things you can do to prevent or recover from a stroke whatever your age.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes kill more than 130,000 Americans each year — one every four minutes. That means that 1 out of every 20 deaths in our country is the result of a stroke. Fortunately, not every stroke is fatal. But it can lead to death or a wide range of permanent disabilities. Overall, the most common risk factors that can contribute to having a stroke are:

—Diabetes.

—High blood pressure.

—High cholesterol.

—Increasing Age.

—Smoking.

Additionally, heart conditions like atrial fibrillation or heart valve disease can potentially cause a stroke. Unfortunately, two-thirds of Americans have at least one of the above-listed conditions or habits, which can't help but affect our national health care costs. Strokes are estimated to cost the U.S. about $33 billion each year. This figure includes the cost of health care services, stroke medications and missed days of work.

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke. One happens every 40 seconds. For about 610,000 of those individuals, it is their first stroke. The remaining individuals, which is about 1 in 4, happen to people who have already suffered a stroke. The vast majority of strokes occur in people over 65 years old.

For people who are 45 and younger, the risk of having a stroke drops to 1 in 1,000, but there are caveats to that much-lowered risk level. There has actually been a steep increase in strokes among people in their 30s and 40s, in part because of a sharp rise in risk factors like abnormal blood clotting, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, sleep apnea and smoking. Additionally, alcohol abuse, illicit drugs (amphetamines, cocaine, etc.), genetic predisposition to strokes and a ruptured aneurysm have been cited as contributing factors. For females, oral contraception have been known to raise the risk of blood clotting, which can cause a stroke. And, for some mysterious reason, regardless of age, migraine sufferers also seem to have an increased risk of stroke.

One of the problems for younger stroke victims, according to a study by doctors at the Wayne State University Comprehensive Stroke Program, was that they were often given a misdiagnosis (like a possible inner ear disorder, intoxication, migraine, seizure, vertigo or other problem) and sent home. This can have serious repercussions because the optimum time for stroke diagnosis and treatment is as short as three to four hours after the onset of symptoms. The standard treatment during the narrow window of time after diagnosis involves thrombolytic therapy, which relies on the tissue plasminogen activator drug that has the ability to dissolve a patient's artery-blocking clot in the brain.

The three major types of stroke that need to be addressed are TIAs, or mini-strokes, which are short-lived episodes that usually resolve within 24 hours. They are a temporary impairment of brain function caused by a loss of blood supply, as opposed to the much more serious ischemic stroke, where part of the brain loses blood flow, or hemorrhagic stroke, where bleeding occurs within the brain.

Again, if you think someone might be having a stroke, just remember the acronym "FAST."

Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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