Your brain is the most complex organ in your body. It consists of more than 100 billion specialized nerve cells called neurons and it acts as a command centre for everything you do, think, sense and say. These neurons depend on the blood vessels in your brain for oxygen and nutrients. Neurons cannot duplicate or repair themselves.
A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. It is caused by the interruption of flow of blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). The interruption of blood flow or the rupture of blood vessels causes brain cells (neurons) in the affected area to die.
The effects of a stroke depend on where the brain was injured, as well as how much damage occurred. A stroke can impact any number of areas including your ability to move, see, remember, speak, reason and read and write. In a small number of cases, stroke-like damage to the brain can occur when the heart stops (cardiac arrest). The longer the brain goes without oxygen and nutrients supplied by blood flow, the greater the risk of permanent brain damage. Brain injuries can also result in uncontrolled bleeding and permanent brain damage. This is usually referred to as an Acquired Brain Injury.
Every year, approximately 50,000 Canadians will have a stroke; that’s one stroke every 10 minutes. Stroke is also the third leading cause of death in Canada. But, by recognizing and responding immediately to any signs of stroke and calling 9-1-1, survival and recovery can be significantly improved.
So then, how can you recognize that you are having a stroke?
Here are five warning signs:
1) weakness – sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary,
2) trouble speaking – sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary,
3) vision problems – sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary,
4) headache – sudden severe and unusual headache, and
5) dizziness – sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.
Of course, you cannot control your family history, age, gender or ethnicity. But fortunately, you can do something about other factors that could increase your risk of having a stroke, including obesity, diet, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
Knowing your stroke risk factors, following your doctor’s recommendations and adopting a healthy lifestyle are the best steps you can take to prevent a stroke. Are you at risk? The first step to finding out is to meet with one of the professionals at the Agassiz Community Health Centre. They can do a personalized risk assessment and work with you to prepare a customized action plan for healthy living so you can do all you can to prevent a stroke.
Call 604-703-2030 for an appointment, today.
– Agassiz Community Health Centre