Stroke Awareness

Medical experts tell us, people who have positive outgoing personalities tend to bounce back quicker from strokes.  Lynda Gatewood is one of those people.

November 2005, that's when her life was changed by stroke.  "I woke up and I had broken out in a rash. I thought it was a reaction to some medication I had taken and I called for help and I was taken to the emergency room at Memorial.  Before I got there I passed out," Gatewood recalls.  She says some thought she would not leave the emergency room because her stroke was that bad.

Gatewood was unconscious for several days.  When she came to she was paralyzed along the right side of her body.  "I could talk, but I many times used the wrong word, but I couldn't tell time, I couldn't count money."  The road to recovery has been a long one.  Gatewood was hospitalized for several weeks, then she underwent rehabilitation and now she's undergoing speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy.  She's bouncing back thanks to a positive attitude and according to her great, professional help.  Her only family is her 91 year old mother, so she was determined to fight back and recover.  "I'm not going to tell you that it didn't hurt, yes, every time I came.  A great deal of the time I was coming three times a week. Everyday I came I went home hurting, but I knew what was ahead for me in the future."

What is stroke?  According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is a brain attack.  It is a type of cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain.  A stroke happens when a clot obstructs the flow of blood to the brain or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain.  During a stroke, two million brain cells die every minute increasing the risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death. It is possible to save lives and limit disabilities by recognizing the symptoms of a stroke and acting quickly to get medical attention.

Common stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you think a person you are with is suffering a stroke, the National Stroke Association encourages you to "Act F.A.S.T.:"

F = Face Ask the person to smile.  Does one side of the face droop?

A = Arm Ask the person to raise both arms.  Does one are drift downward?

S = Speech Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.  Does the speech sound slurred or strange?

T = Time If you observe any of these signs, it's time to call 9-1-1 or get to the nearest stroke center or hospital.

There are many risk factors for stroke.  Factors such as age, family history, race, gender, and previous stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA) or heart attacks can not be changed, but there are factors that can be changed, treated, or controlled.

  • High Blood Pressure is a leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. Doctors can help keep blood pressure under control
  • Cigarette Smoking doubles the risk for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system in many ways.
  • Diabetes, although treatable, increases the risk for stroke.
  • Arterial Fibrillation (AF), a heart rhythm disorder, causes the heart's upper chambers to quiver instead of beating effectively, which can let the blood pool and clot. If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results.
  • High Blood Cholesterol can indirectly increase stroke risk by putting you at greater risk of heart disease - an important stroke risk factor.
  • A Poor Diet can raise cholesterol levels and a diet high in salt can contribute to high blood pressure. A diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Physical Activity and Obesity are related to stroke risk. Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.Doing as little as 30 minutes a day of some kind of exercise activity can reduce the risk for stroke.

On average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds.  More women die from stroke than men and African Americans have almost twice the risk of first-ever strokes as compared to Caucasians. Knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke and reacting quickly can save lives.

Memorial Health System of East Texas urges everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke and "Think F.A.S.T." because "time lost is brain lost."

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