If you're like most Americans, you plan for your future. When you take a job, you examine its benefit plan. When you buy a home, you consider its location and condition so that your investment is safe. Today, more and more Americans are protecting their most important asset-their health. Are you?
Stroke ranks as the third leading killer in the United States. A stroke can be devastating to individuals and their families, robbing them of their independence. It is the most common cause of adult disability. Each year more than 500,000 Americans have a stroke, with about 145,000 dying from stroke- related causes. Officials at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) are committed to reducing that burden through biomedical research.
A stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke, or "brain attack," occurs when blood circulation to the brain fails. Brain cells can die from decreased blood flow and the resulting lack of oxygen. There are two broad categories of stroke: those caused by a blockage of blood flow and those caused by bleeding. While not usually fatal, a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain or neck, called an ischemic stroke, is the most frequent cause of stroke and is responsible for about 80 percent of strokes. These blockages stem from three conditions: the formation of a clot within a blood vessel of the brain or neck, called thrombosis; the movement of a clot from another part of the body such as the heart to the neck or brain, called embolism; or a severe narrowing of an artery in or leading to the brain, called stenosis. Bleeding into the brain or the spaces surrounding the brain causes the second type of stroke, called hemorrhagic stroke.
Two key steps you can take will lower your risk of death or disability from stroke: know stroke's warning signs and control stroke's risk factors. Scientific research conducted by the NINDS has identified warning signs and a large number of risk factors.
What are Warning Signs of a Stroke?
Warning signs are clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. If you observe one or more of these signs of a stroke or "brain attack," don't wait, call a doctor or 911 right away!
Other danger signs that may occur include double vision, drowsiness, and nausea or vomiting. Sometimes the warning signs may last only a few moments and then disappear. These brief episodes, known as transient ischemic attacks or TIAs, are sometimes called "mini-strokes." Although brief, they identify an underlying serious condition that isn't going away without medical help. Unfortunately, since they clear up, many people ignore them. Don't. Heeding them can save your life.
What are Risk Factors for a Stroke?
A risk factor is a condition or behavior that occurs more frequently in those who have, or are at greater risk of getting, a disease than in those who don't. Having a risk factor for stroke doesn't mean you'll have a stroke. On the other hand, not having a risk factor doesn't mean you'll avoid a stroke. But your risk of stroke grows as the number and severity of risk factors increases.
Stroke occurs in all age groups, in both sexes, and in all races in every country. It can even occur before birth, when the fetus is still in the womb. In African-Americans, the death rate from stroke is almost twice that of the white population. Scientists have found more and more severe risk factors in some minority groups and continue to look for patterns of stroke in these groups.
Some of the most important treatable risk factors for stroke are:
Do You Know Your Stroke Risk?
Some of the most important risk factors for stroke can be determined during a physical exam at your doctor's office. If you are over 55 years old, the worksheet in this pamphlet can help you estimate your risk of stroke and show the benefit of risk factor control.
The worksheet was developed from NINDS-supported work in the well-known Framingham Study. Working with your doctor, you can develop a strategy to lower your risk to average or even below average for your age.
Many risk factors for stroke
can be managed, some very successfully. Although risk is never zero at
any age, by starting early and controlling your risk factors you can lower
your risk of death or
Americans have shown that stroke is preventable and treatable. A better understanding of the causes of stroke has helped Americans make lifestyle changes that have cut the stroke death rate nearly in half in the last two decades.
More than a million stroke
survivors suffer little or no long lasting disability from their strokes.
Another two million, however, live with the crippling and lifelong disabilities
of paralysis, loss of speech,
Score your stroke risk for the next 10 years-MEN
Score your stroke risk for the next 10 years-WOMEN
Source: D'Agostino, R.B.; Wolf, P.A.; Belanger, A.J.; & Kannel, W.B. "Stroke Risk Profile: The Framingham Study." Stroke, Vol. 25,, No. 1, pp.40-43, January 1994.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Since its creation by Congress in 1950, the NINDS has grown to become the leading supporter of neurological research in the United States. Most research funded by the NINDS is conducted by scientists in public and private institutions such as universities, medical schools, and hospitals. Government scientists also conduct a wide variety of neurological research in the 21 laboratories and branches of the NINDS itself. This research ranges from studies on the structure and function of single brain cells to tests of new diagnostic tools and treatments for those with neurological disorders. For more information, write or call:
NIH Neurological Institute
of Health and Human Services
NIH Publication No. 94-3440-b
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