Understanding Stroke

A Leading Cause of Death and Long-Term Disability for Seniors

Also known as a “brain attack,” a stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, second only to heart disease and all forms of cancer. Even more frightening, stroke ranks first as America’s leading cause of serious long-term disability.

A stroke can occur if blood flow to the brain is blocked, or if there is bleeding into the brain. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.

How a person is affected by their stroke depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged. For example, someone who had a small stroke may only have minor problems such as temporary weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be permanently paralyzed on one side of their body or lose their ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of disability.

Stroke is very serious. Some people are of greater risk than others. If you have the following risk factors it’s time to take control of your health:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • History of stroke

Treatment options are available to stroke survivors. Be sure to follow your healthcare team’s instructions throughout the recovery process and to always take your medications as prescribed, if at risk. Prevention is key when facing this long-term disability.

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