Featuring Dr. Daniel Sa, WellMed Specialists for Health Medical Center
According to the CDC, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, and every 3.5 minutes someone in the United States dies from a stroke. In fact, strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. While strokes most commonly affect older adults, WellMed neurologist Dr. Daniel Sa says they also happen in younger adults and even children.
There are certain habits and health conditions, however, that contribute to an increased likelihood of suffering a stroke. Dr. Sa says these include:
• Family history of stroke
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
Of these, Dr. Sa says that smoking contributes most to the likelihood of having a stroke. Smoking damages blood vessels, making them grow thicker and become narrower. That, in turn, makes the heart beat faster, increases blood pressure and can cause clots to form.
Dr. Sa says there are two types of strokes:
1) Hemorrhagic, which are caused by blood vessels that rupture and bleed into the brain
2) Ischemic, which usually refer to small blood clots that create a lack of blood flow to the brain.
Of the two, ischemic is the most common type of stroke. Dr. Sa explains ischemic stroke like this, “If you build a dam on a river, the fish who are blocked by the dam long enough will die. A blood clot acts like that dam. If a clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain long enough, that portion of the brain being deprived of blood flow will die or be severely damaged.”
That is why time is of the essence if you or someone you know is having a stroke. Dr. Sa says a person may be having a stroke if:
• An entire side of the person’s face suddenly freezes or goes limp
• A person’s entire side of their body suddenly goes limp
• A person’s speech suddenly become garbled or difficult to understand
The fast nature of the change affecting the person is key to determining whether the person is suffering a stroke. “It happens very quickly,” says Dr. Sa. “They are normal then seem very abnormal.”
It is important to call 9-1-1 immediately because the likelihood of a more successful recovery relies on being treated as soon as possible. A successful outcome is more likely if the stroke victim receives treatment within the first three hours, Dr. Sa says.
To help prevent strokes, Dr. Sa recommends:
• If you have diabetes, get your blood sugar under control with a physician’s guidance.
• If you smoke, stop immediately and if you’re tempted to smoke, don’t.
• If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, discuss with your doctor how best to reduce it.
Most importantly, Dr. Sa says walking 30 minutes a day at least four days a week is one of the best forms of stroke prevention available. The pace is irrelevant; the continuous movement is most beneficial. “The stop-start walking employees do in their offices is ineffective,” he adds. “It must be 30 minutes of continuous walking at a pace most comfortable for the walker.”
As a final tip, Dr. Sa says it is impossible to overemphasize the importance of seeking immediate medical attention. “DO NOT ignore fast changes in a person’s ability to move or talk. It is better to go to the ER and be told it was unnecessary than to ignore the signs of stroke.”
Dr. Daniel Sa practices at the WellMed Specialists for Health Medical Center clinic in San Antonio, Texas. He earned his medical degree from The Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil. Dr. Sa’s speciality is Neurology.
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