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Suddenly, you feel numbness or lose your ability to speak. You can’t move one side of your body.

Would you know when someone is having a stroke? Recognizing the signs and acting quickly could mean the difference between life and death, or between a full recovery and lasting disability. Just remember FAST, which stands for: Face - is it drooping? Arms - can you raise both?

These are some of the telltale signs of a stroke, also known as a CVA, cerebral vascular accident.

Sometimes these symptoms last a short time before disappearing. That is called a TIA, transient ischemic attack. While TIAs generally do not cause permanent brain damage, they are a serious warning sign that a stroke may happen in the future. Don’t ignore them. Time is Brain and you should seek medical attention immediately.

Other times the symptoms persist. The advice is the same. Head for the nearest emergency room.

Sound scary? It’s intentional. Knowledge is power. And in celebration of American Stroke Month, it’s important to share the facts.

To be clear, there are two different types of stroke: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic

Ischemic is the more common one where an artery supplying the brain is blocked, and loses its ability to supply the brain tissue of vital nutrients and oxygen. What’s causing the blockage? An MRI or ultrasound of the neck is generally scheduled to explore the possibilities. Did plaque rupture or is there a connective tissue disorder?

Neither? That could mean that a cardiac embolic event has occurred. Blame it on a clot which flew from your heart to your brain caused by atrial fibrillation. Or the clot could’ve developed after a heart attack or in an area of weakened muscle. There is also the possibly there is a hole in your heart which allowed the passage of a preformed clot to fly up to the brain.

The second type of stroke is Hemorrhagic or a bleeding stroke, where an artery bursts, causing the blood to pour into the brain and increase pressure on this vital organ. Patients who experience this type of stroke may experience a change in mental status or complain about having the worst headache of their life. The key is to call 911 immediately since there is a time limit on the success of the intervention.

According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association., stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the country.

Are strokes preventable?

As a patient, keeping your blood pressure cholesterol and diabetes under control is a major step.

If you have atrial fibrillation, following your doctor’s prescription for anti-coagulants, like Warfarin, or anti-platelet therapy, like aspirin, is equally as important.

The final piece is lifestyle. Diet, exercise and sleep are the cornerstone of prevention. This is not a new concept. Just ask Ben Franklin who said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Translations: It's easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair the damage after it has happened.

Need a cardiologist or someone to help you put your lifestyle back on track? Schedule an appointment at NanoHealth Associates 954-980-0361.

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