What Every Man Needs to Know About Strokes
How can I prevent a stroke? continued...
Certain heart conditions -- such as atrial fibrillation, which causes the heart to pump less efficiently than it should -- can also cause clots that lead to strokes. High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol raise your risk too. If you have any of these conditions, you'll need to keep them under control with lifestyle changes or medication. Low-dose aspirin can reduce stroke risk, although it may not help younger men already at low risk for stroke. Talk to your doctor before starting aspirin therapy.
Some risk factors for stroke -- such as increasing age and family history -- can't be controlled. Even so, making changes to your way of life can still have a big positive effect.
How are strokes treated?
Specific stroke treatment depends on the type of stroke. If caught in time, ischemic strokes can be treated with drugs called clot busters (thrombolytics). Clot busters can quickly dissolve the blockage, restoring blood flow to the affected area and preserving brain cells.
Hemorrhagic strokes are difficult to treat -- usually, it's necessary to simply watch and wait for bleeding to stop on its own. Occasionally, hemorrhagic strokes can be treated with surgery or other procedures.
The main problem with treating strokes is catching them in time. Clot-busters need to be given within a few hours of the very first symptoms of a stroke.
As you recover -- and stroke recovery can be slow -- you're likely to need ongoing treatment. The problem is that having one stroke puts you at risk for having more. If you've had an ischemic stroke, your doctor might recommend blood thinners -- drugs that reduce your blood's tendency to clot. Stents can also be surgically implanted to open up a clogged artery.
What else do I need to know about strokes?
For such a common killer of men, we tend to be woefully ill-informed about strokes. A third of all men can't name a single stroke symptom. So learn the signs of stroke. If you ever have any of the following stroke symptoms, you need treatment right away.
- sudden numbness or weakness, particularly on only one side of the body
- sudden confusion
- trouble speaking or understanding speech
- trouble with vision
- trouble walking or maintaining balance
And we should say a few words about TIAs -- or if you prefer the cutesy name, "mini-strokes." TIAs cause the same stroke symptoms as above, but they're so brief -- usually lasting only a few minutes -- that they don't do lasting damage to the brain.
However, never ignore these stroke symptoms, no matter how quickly they fade. Having a TIA seriously increases your risk of having a full-fledged stroke. Your doctor is likely to start you on treatment right away.
Whatever you do, never take signs of stroke lightly. Don't ignore them. Get to an emergency room right away. Because when it comes to stroke treatment, every minute counts.