Heart Month: 'Brain Attacks'

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800,000 Americans suffer from strokes each and every year and women are more likely to have one than men.

Dr. Drew Oliveira is the Senior Executive Medical Director with Regence and he says strokes are just as dangerous as heart attacks, "People are just not as aware of what a stroke is, what the symptoms might be, and how to recognize those."

According to the American Heart Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.

Dr. Oliveira says,  "Because of the seriousness of a stroke, they are starting to call them ‘brain attacks’ just like we talk about heart attacks."

Strokes are the number four cause of death in women and Dr. Oliveira says come in a few different varieties, "The most common one is called an ischemic stroke, meaning that the blood supply is blocked or obstructed and it can’t get to the brain."

Dr. Oliveira says 87% of strokes fall into that type of category. The next common category is hemorrhagic stroke. That is commonly associated with uncontrolled high blood pressure, "Making sure your blood pressure is well managed. Making sure you’re not overweight, watching your cholesterol, eating a healthy diet, so avoid those high-fat diets, being physically active will also help lower your blood pressure but also prevent a stroke."

A mini-stroke is also cause for concern when it comes to heart health, "It is clearly a warning sign, usually related to a potential clot in the system that was causing a blockage that then disappeared."

Aside from high blood pressure, other risk factors include age-- the older you are, the higher the risk-- family history, diabetes, smoking and Atrial Fibrillation, or A-Fib.

"If you feel like your heart is beating in a funny way you always want to get that checked out."

The symptoms are sometimes hard to spot and can be especially tough for women as oftentimes the signs are mistaken for something else. The acronym "F.A.S.T." may help make things a little easier.

"F is for facial drooping. A is for an arm weakness or a leg weakness, so all of a sudden you cannot use that side of your body. S is for speech. So slurred speech, inability to speak, unable to understand someone’s speech, and then T it is time to call 911."

Dr. Oliveira says some other more subtle symptoms include slight weaknesses in the face or arm, maybe some numbness in a leg, not being able to see well in both eyes, or even double vision. Dr. Oliveira says also to watch for headaches with no known cause. Any of those things indicate it is time to call 911 because every single second counts when it comes to our hearts and preventing these so-called, brain attacks.

For more from the American Heart Association, click here.

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