Patty's Preparedness Corner: Learn Basic Medical Care
By Patty Liston
During a time of crisis a lot of different things may occur: water may be lacking, food may be depleted, communication may be down and the "normal" routine of our daily lives severely disrupted. Some people are born to rise to the challenge - whatever it may be. Others, especially the elderly and young children, may develop heightened anxiety.
One of the preparedness tools that should be a part of your emergency tool kit is a basic knowledge of first aid survival. For the next several weeks, this site will help you learn what to do and where to go to learn some simple first aid skills. Remember, we cannot assume that during a crisis we will be able to hop in our car and get medical treatment. Roads may be jammed with cars or broken up due to flood, tornados or earthquakes. Hospitals, if you can reach one, may be damaged, and the doctors and nurses at the hospitals will be overwhelmed with patients.
Because strokes can be a result of a heart attack, and heart attacks may often be caused by anxiety, I thought we would start here. Also, May is Stroke Awareness Month. With an estimated 795,000 people in the US suffering from strokes each year, I thought I would begin with a little background information, then help you identify if someone is actually having a stroke.
I am excerpting some of this information from Jeffrey S. Eisenberg and Life Line Screening, (LifeLineScreening.com)
1. What causes stroke?
Simply defined, stroke is an attack, of sorts, on the brain. Damage results from two possible circumstances: Blood vessels may become blocked due to blood clots or build-up of plaque and other fatty acids (ischemic stroke). Or, a blood vessel may burst, causing blood to leak into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).
Ischemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes, but hemorrhagic strokes are responsible for 30% of all stroke deaths, according to the National Stroke Association.
2. What is my risk for stroke?Your risk of stroke depends on several factors. These include:
Age. Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people aged 65 years or older, with the chances of having a stroke doubling each decade after the age of 55, according to the CDC. Even so, stroke can occur at any age, with nearly 25% occurring in people younger than 27.
Gender. Each year, about 55,000 more women than men have strokes, according to the National Stroke Association, although incidence at younger ages is higher in men than women.
Race. Stroke death rates are twice as high for African Americans than for whites, even at younger ages, according to the CDC. Pacific Islander and Hispanic populations also are at higher risk of stroke than whites.
Family history of stroke. Every family member of someone who has had a stroke is at increased risk of stroke.
High blood pressure. Several studies have found hypertension to be the most prevalent and modifiable risk factor for stroke.
Lifestyle. This includes smoking, alcohol use, exercise and diet.
Diabetes. The risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes. In 2004, stroke was noted on 16% of diabetes-related death certificates among people aged 65 years or older.
Atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). Atrial fibrillation is responsible for 15% to 20% of ischemic strokes. Atrial fibrillation increases one's risk of suffering an ischemic stroke by five times, according to a report from the American Heart Association.
Myocardial infarction (heart attack). The incidence of ischemic stroke is approximately 1% to 2% per year after MI, with the greatest risk occurring in the first month after the MI, according to reports cited in guidelines from the National Stroke Association.
3. Can I reduce my risk of developing a stroke?
Yes. "A lot of [prevention] is behavioral change, living a reasonably good lifestyle, "said Joseph P. Broderick, MD, professor and chair department of the University of Cincinnati's Neuroscience Institute and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. Although you cannot control for such risk factors as age, gender, race and family history, they can modify many other risk factors.
To decrease stroke risk, Dr. Broderick says, you may need to make lifestyle changes and treat underlying medical conditions. This includes losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more and increasing your consumption of fruit and vegetables. Under the care of your doctor, you need to closely monitor and control high blood pressure and diabetes and, if necessary, take medication to control atrial fibrillation.
Dr. .Broderick also recommends regular screenings for blood pressure and cholesterol
4. What are the warning signs of an impending stroke?
Common stroke symptoms include:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body.
A person might have trouble speaking or understanding
Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
Or, they may experience a severe headache with no known cause.
If you suspect you or someone you know is having a stroke, Dr. Broderick and others suggest you use the FAST test. FAST stands for:
Face. Can the patient smile, or does one side of the face droop?
Arms. Can the patient raise both arms, or does one arm drift downward?
Speech. Can the person repeat a simple sentence, or is speech slurred?
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. "Treatments are most effective the earlier they are given," Dr. Broderick says.