Stroke prevention and risk factors

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced. When this happens, brain tissue does not receive adequate oxygen. This can lead to lasting damage if not quickly treated.

Many factors contribute to a patient's likelihood of experiencing a stroke. While not all can be controlled, several can be better managed starting today. Risk factors of stroke include:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history of stroke
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation)
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Smoking 

Stroke warning signs: BE FAST!

A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is vital to preserving brain cells and increasing the chances of a positive outcome. Call 911 immediately if a person is experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • B is for Balance: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?
  • E is for Eyes: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
  • F is for Face: Does the person's face look uneven?
  • A is for Arms: Is one arm hanging down?
  • S is for Speech: Is the person's speech slurred?
  • T is for Time: Call 911 now! 

Diagnosing ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes

There are two main types of stroke. When blood flow to the brain is blocked, it is called an ischemic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs if a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into or around the brain.

Patients brought to Colleton Medical Center with stroke symptoms are evaluated in our emergency department. Evaluation for stroke includes:

  • Blood work
  • Chest X-rays
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scans of the brain
  • Electrocardiography (EKGs)
  • Swallow studies

It is important that anyone experiencing stroke symptoms call 911 rather than drive to the hospital. EMS personnel can communicate with the hospital in route, and EMS patients are transported immediately for a CT scan. 

Stroke treatment

Patients diagnosed with an ischemic stroke and whose symptoms began within the previous 3-4.5 hours may be offered tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA. This is a clot dissolving drug administered to help restore blood flow to the brain. Patients diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke may be taken to surgery or to our intensive care unit for monitoring.