What is a stroke? By definition, a stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving the organ from oxygen nutrients. If this occurs, brain cells begin to die within minutes, hence the need for immediate assistance. There are two forms of a stroke, one being ‘ischemic,’ which is the blockage of a blood vessel, and ‘hemorrhagic,’ meaning bleeding into or around the brain. According to WebMD, 80 percent of strokes are ischemic, caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel or artery in the brain. The other 20 percent stem from a hemorrhagic stroke when a blood vessel in the brain breaks and bleeds into the organ.
What happens during a stroke? When the blockage or breaking of a blood vessel in the brain occurs, the time clock on living brain cells quickly shortens. The blood supply to the brain is interrupted, resulting in a loss of oxygen and nutrients derived from the blood. Living cells survive on oxygen, so it is important to seek medical help immediately to prevent a fatal loss of brain cells.
What should you do if you think someone is having a stroke? If you believe you are witnessing someone being attacked by a stroke, it’s vital to act as fast as possible. The signs of a possible stroke are the loss of speech, involuntary movement of a limb, or a one-sided facial paralysis. If you see anyone experience any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Again, strokes can be fatal and are considered a high-risk medical emergency. Immediate response and treatment could save someone’s life and increase their chances for a successful recovery.
Risk of stroke usually increases after age 45, but what causes young people to suffer from strokes? Unfortunately, strokes are increasingly common for young and middle-aged people, between 20 and 54 years of age. According to a study in the journal Neurology, the rate of stroke in the 20 to 52 age group increased from about 13 percent to 19 percent in the last several years. Younger-aged people tend to experience strokes caused from infections, trauma, heart disorders, sickle cell disease, and dehydration. Another key reason younger people may experience a stroke could be due to obesity, according to Andrew Russman, D.O., a neurologist and stroke care specialist. “Obesity in children and teens is up in America and that increases the lifetime risk for stroke. Obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes,” according to Dr. Russman. “These are all important stroke risk factors at any age.”
Fortunately, there are ways to lower your risk of experiencing a stroke. Prevention at any age includes visiting a physician regularly to identify underlying diseases, eating a diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, controlling your blood pressure and high cholesterol, recognizing and controlling diabetes, avoiding drugs and smoking, and exercising plus maintaining a healthy weight at all times.