Our brains are a natural hog when it comes to blood, demanding roughly 15-20% of our body’s total blood supply!1 If the brain loses its blood supply, the brain cells lose access to the oxygen they need to live. This loss of blood supply happens during a stroke. In the same way that a heart attack is a lack of blood to the heart, you can think of a stroke as a “brain attack”. The longer your brain goes without oxygen, the more brain cells die, and the more damaging the impacts of the stroke will be.
With over 400,000 Canadians living with long-term stroke-related disabilities, it is crucial to educate ourselves about the potential risks and warning signs of this disease, as well as the essential preventative measures you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.2
So, how does your brain lose its oxygen supply? The loss depends on the type of stroke that you have. There are two main types of strokes: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic.
- An ischemic stroke occurs when blood flow through the artery that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked. A blood clot often causes the blockage that leads to an ischemic stroke.
- A Transient ischemic attack or T.I.A. is also known as a mini-stroke. It’s different from a regular stroke because the brain loses blood flow for a short amount of time, usually less than 5 minutes.
- Hemorrhagic strokes happen when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures. The leaked blood then puts pressure on the brain and damages cells. There are two types of hemorrhagic strokes:
- An intracerebral stroke occurs when an artery in the brain bursts. This floods the surrounding brain tissue with blood. This is the most common type of hemorrhagic stroke.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage refers to bleeding in the area between the thin tissue covering the brain and the brain tissue. These are less common than an Intracerebral stroke.3
Now that the basics are covered, here are five essential facts about strokes. After all, your brain is your most important asset; the more you know about strokes, the more steps you can take to protect against them.
Anyone Can Have a Stroke
It may seem like strokes only happen to older people, and while the risk of this disease increases with age, even young people or children can have strokes. An increasing number of people are showing risk factors for stroke. According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, 4 out of every 100 strokes happen to someone between 18 and 45.4 The truth is: strokes can happen to anyone at any age. It’s important to know that strokes do not discriminate against sex or race either.
In the past, stroke awareness campaigns have focused on males. While males do have a higher risk of experiencing a stroke, according to figures from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, women tend to have worse outcomes following strokes, with females accounting for 59% of stroke deaths.5
You Can Have a Stroke and Not Know It
T.I.A.s or “mini-strokes” should be considered warning strokes. They produce stroke-like symptoms that don’t last and are more subtle but are often indicators that a full-blown stroke could be ahead. While T.I.A.s are “mini-strokes”, they are considered medical emergencies and should be treated with immediate medical attention.
You Can Prevent Most Strokes
Did you know that a healthy lifestyle can prevent a high percentage of strokes? As high as 80%, in fact.6 Harvard Medical School offers a few practical ways to change your lifestyle to prevent stroke:7
- Lower blood pressure: High blood pressure can quadruple your risk of stroke. Monitoring your blood pressure and starting a treatment plan is probably the best plan of attack when taking steps to improve your cardiovascular health. Keep in mind that healthy blood pressure is under 120/80.
- Quit smoking: Smoking accelerates blood clot formation. It not only thickens your blood but also increases plaque buildup around arteries.
- Drink in moderation: Studies have shown that one alcoholic drink per day will decrease your risk of having a stroke. However, once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk of stroke increases very sharply. As the saying goes, “everything in moderation.”
Heart-healthy lifestyle choices, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, can also reduce the likelihood of having a stroke. Review your daily habits and consider making improvements.
Stroke is the Leading Cause of Long-Term Disability
Strokes can cause lasting effects on the bodies of those who survive them. The extent of these disabilities results from the duration and severity of the stroke and any pre-existing health conditions. Below are a few of the most common disabilities faced by stroke survivors:
- Paralysis or loss of motor control.
- Aphasia is a disease that can impair the ability to process and understand language. Dysarthria can weaken the muscles around the face and mouth, impacting the ability to pronounce words correctly.
- Cognitive and psychological problems including issues with memory or patterns of thinking, emotional disturbances, and personality changes.
You Can Learn the Symptoms by Thinking FAST
A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Should you or a loved one have a stroke, being aware of symptoms could help save a life. Thankfully, there is an easy way to learn and recognize the key signs using a handy little acronym known as F.A.S.T.
Think F.A.S.T.! Signs you’re having a stroke:
Face: One side of the face droops when you smile.
Arms: One arm drifts downward when both arms are raised.
Speech: Speech is slurred or otherwise peculiar when you’re speaking.
Time: Call 911 immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
If any of these symptoms occur, you or a family member could be having a stroke and should seek emergency help. Considering that 50% of the damage to the brain occurs within the first 90 minutes of a stroke, recognizing and quickly seeking treatment can make a difference in minimizing lasting brain damage and reduce the risk of passing away.8 Just remember to think F.A.S.T.!
June is Stroke Awareness Month, created by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. This month is dedicated to raising funds and awareness of the impacts of stroke and how to prevent it through healthy lifestyle choices. There have been monumental advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients. Still, it remains essential to educate your loved ones and community members about the signs of the disease to reduce its impact upon Canadians.
If you are a stroke survivor or live with heart disease, you can still protect your loved ones with affordable, easy-to-apply-for-life insurance coverage. Talk to a Canada Protection Plan advisor to discover your options today!
- 1 https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/about.htm
- 2 https://www.heartandstroke.ca/what-we-do/media-centre/news-releases/help-wanted-needs-not-being-met-for-canadians-living-with-stroke
- 3 https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/types_of_stroke.htm#ischemic
- 4 https://www.canadianstroke.ca/
- 5 https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/stroke-report/strokereport2018.ashx
- 6 https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/healthy_living.htm#:~:text=Stroke%20is%20preventable.,raise%20your%20risk%20for%20stroke
- 7 https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/8-things-you-can-do-to-prevent-a-stroke
- 8 https://www.cooperinstitute.org/2016/02/11/stroke-a-frequently-preventable-cause-of-disability-and-death