Do You Know Stroke? Test Your Knowledge

In the past, a stroke was like a lightning bolt out of the blue: unpredictable, unpreventable, untreatable and devastating. But today, researchers know that many “brain attacks” can be prevented by controlling certain risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also spells trouble if you smoke cigarettes, pack on too many pounds, drink too much and don’t exercise. Still, life can deal out other risk factors like an unlucky card hand, with age, ethnicity and heredity also playing a role in strokes.

Many of us are dangerously ignorant of the risk factors and warning signs of stroke. As the nation’s third leading cause of death (trailing heart disease and cancer) stroke leaves many survivors with lifelong disabilities. 

Take this quiz to find out what health issues could be putting you at risk and what you can do to protect yourself. Note each question that applies to you. Then, read on to learn more.

  • Has your doctor warned you that your blood pressure is too high?
  • Have you been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Do you have high cholesterol?

If you answered yes to all three questions, you’re at significant risk for stroke. Doctors consider high blood pressure, known as a “silent killer,” to be the No. 1 risk factor for stroke, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blocked or burst blood vessel. Not only is hypertension common (an estimated one in three adults has it), but it’s treatable. The catch is, about one in five adults suffers from high blood pressure and doesn’t know it, according to one estimate.

Meanwhile, high cholesterol and diabetes also play havoc on the veins and arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain. Diabetes isn’t just a disease of blood sugar. What it really does is attack the blood vessels. If you suffer from one or all three conditions follow the advice of your physician and keep regularly scheduled follow-up appointments.

  • Do you smoke?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Is your favorite motto, “It’s five o’clock somewhere”?
Smoking, overeating and excessive drinking are the trifecta of risky health habits. Quit smoking, drink only in moderation, exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week, and modify your diet so you’re getting the minimum five servings per day of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein such as skinless chicken breasts and fish. Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States, and obesity is right behind it.

  • Do you have a parent, grandparent, sister or brother who has had a stroke?
  • Have you had a prior stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack) or heart attack?
  • Are you 55 or older?
If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, you have what’s called nonmodifiable risk factors for stroke, meaning risk factors you can’t change. It’s always good to know your family’s health history, but be more concerned if you’ve had a prior stroke, heart attack or TIA.

TIAs are called “warning strokes” because they produce strokelike symptoms but no lasting damage. If you’ve had one or more TIAs, you’re almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same age and sex who hasn’t, according to the American Stroke Association.

Aging also takes a toll on your arteries, doubling your chance of having a stroke for each decade of life after 55, according to the association. As you age, your arteries become more fragile. They are less elastic and flexible. They become brittle. This hardening of the arteries is called atherosclerosis. The more buildup of atherosclerosis, the more likely these arteries are to clog or close off. If this occurs in the brain, it will result in stroke. Although risk for stroke increases as we get older, stroke can occur at any age—infancy, teens and during the prime of our life.

If you have one or more risk factors for stroke that can’t be changed, don’t panic. Learn the warning signs of stroke and don’t use rationalizations such as “I’ll feel better in the morning” if they occur. Instead, immediately dial 911 and check the time. Your healthcare team will ask, “When did the first warning sign or symptom start?”

  • Do you have the warning signs of stroke memorized?
  • Do you keep a list of emergency rescue service numbers next to the telephone and in your pocket, wallet or purse?
  • Do you know which hospitals are nearest to your home and office as well as which are primary stroke centers that have 24-hour emergency stroke care?
If you’ve answered yes to all the above questions, congratulations! You’re prepared for a medical emergency, such as a stroke. 

Stroke Care Begins with a Call to 911

You can be assured that the highly skilled team of physicians and nurses at Gwinnett Medical Center's accredited Primary Stroke Center will provide the best quality of care. Upon arriva, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) notifies the Emergency Departments at Gwinnett Medical Center-Lawrenceville or Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth of a potential stroke victim as they are transporting the patient. 

This notification activates our Stroke Alert process, initializing emergent triage, diagnosis and treatment in an effort to provide eligible patients with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)—the only FDA-approved clot-busting medicine.


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