Tips given on dangers, prevention of stroke

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., May. 13, 2011
UConn nursing students Lois Kulas and Lisa Tomcho demonstrate ways to recognize a person suffering a stroke. Photos by Steve Smith.
UConn nursing students Lois Kulas and Lisa Tomcho demonstrate ways to recognize a person suffering a stroke. Photos by Steve Smith.

Strokes are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, claiming 137,000 lives each year.

Lois Kulas and Lisa Tomcho, nursing students from the UConn nursing program, presented a program to the Glastonbury Senior Center on May 11, which described what happens during a stroke, identified risk factors, and explained stroke prevention, as well as symptoms and treatments.

Kulas said 795,000 strokes will occur this year, and they are also the leading cause of long-term disability in adults.

During a stroke, approximately two million brain cells die per minute, Kulas said, expressing the importance of getting medical attention as soon as possible.

“A stroke occurs when blood can no longer flow to a part of the brain,” she said.

Most strokes are ischemic strokes, which are caused by a blood clot blocking a brain artery. The clots can be created in other parts of the body, and can travel to the brain.

Hemorrhagic strokes occur when weakened or diseased blood vessels rupture, and blood leaks into brain tissue.

TIAs, or “warning strokes” are also possible, and should be taken seriously, as they indicate that the sufferer is 10 percent more likely to experience a stroke.

The largest risk factor for strokes is high blood pressure.

“There are risk factors that you can control, and some that you can't control,” Kulas said. “However, 80 percent of all strokes are preventable.”

Age, gender, heredity and race can be risk factors, as can a previous stroke.

More women suffer strokes than men, and African-Americans have double the incidents of strokes. Mexican-Americans also have an increased risk.

Prevention includes diet (specifically, lower in sodium) and exercise.

“Know your blood pressure,” Kulas said. “Have it checked at least once a year by your doctor. If your cholesterol is high, make sure you are doing things with your doctor to manage cholesterol with either medication or diet.”

“There is going to be sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or legs” during a stroke, said Tomcho, “especially on one side of your body. It's sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding. You could also have trouble seeing or walking.”

Tomcho said a severe sudden headache is also a common symptom.

Checking for symptoms of a stroke, Tomcho said, are most easily remembered with the FAST acronym – face, arms, speech and time. She said the first thing to do identify a stroke is to ask the person to smile.

“If their face is drooping, that's definitely a sign,” Tomcho said. “I would then ask her to raise her arms. If one arm drifts down, or she can't keep it up at all, that's also a sign. If you ask her to say her name, or repeat something back, and she can't tell you what you said, that is a sign of a stroke.”

Tomcho said that if any one sign is seen, it's important to call 911 immediately.

“Learning to act fast when they occur,” she said, “can make a huge difference in your life, or the life of your loved one. Strokes can affect your ability to move, to speak, to see, and to remember. The amount of damage from a stroke is different for everyone.”

For more information, visit the National Stroke Association's website at www.stroke.org.


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