Bay Medical is proud to be nationally certified by The Joint Commission as a Stroke Center of Excellence. Bay Medical has maintained this accreditation since 2004. This means that the physicians and staff here at Bay Medical have the systems in place and have a proven track record of doing all the right things for stroke patients. However, the key to optimizing treatment of stroke is for the patients themselves to recognize the symptoms and call for help.
If you suspect a stroke, seek emergency care immediately. Too many people wait too long to get help, and more damage is done with each passing minute. Stroke medication can stop and even reverse brain damage if given within three hours. Don’t waste time calling your doctor, and never endanger yourself and others by driving yourself to the hospital. Emergency medical services have equipment to give you lifesaving first aid on the spot. Plus, you’ll get quicker treatment at the hospital if you arrive in an ambulance.
- Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body in the face, arm or leg
- Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding
- Sudden dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Unexplained dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, falling or fainting
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Sudden nausea, fever or vomiting
Note: Any of the above signs lasting only a few minutes may be due to a ministroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a serious indicator that the brain is not getting enough oxygen and that a full stroke may soon follow.
Types of Stroke
Stroke takes two forms. Ischemic stroke occurs when a clot shuts off an artery that supplies oxygen-rich blood to the brain. The result: brain damage caused by the death of millions of brain cells. Ischemic clots may form close to the brain, such as in the neck, or they may form farther away, near the heart or lungs.
The second type, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a weakened blood vessel bursts, either inside the brain (intracerebral) or on its surface. Hemorrhaging blood drowns and kills pockets of cells in nearby brain tissue. Such strokes are uncommon but are often so severe they cause death.
Stroke is the end result of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which over the years slowly narrows and weakens the arteries. Risk factors for stroke include:
- Untreated hypertension. High blood pressure, the leading cause of intracerebral hemorrhage, increases your risk of stroke fourfold to sixfold.
- Smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases your risk for ischemic stroke.
- Diabetes. Having this disease raises your risk of stroke.
- Cholesterol. High blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol promote atherosclerosis—a buildup of plaque on arterial walls that impairs circulation. In addition, high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid derived from eating meat, can also damage blood vessels and lead to clots.
- Obesity. Carrying excess weight, especially around your waist, raises your blood pressure and ups your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
These and other risk factors such as a family history of stroke, race (particularly African-American), poor diet, lack of exercise and having other heart problems like atrial fibrillation or congestive heart failure can stack the odds of a stroke against you.
If you have any of the above risk factors, it is possible to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of stroke. However for those with cardiovascular disease, it would be wise to speak with your cardiologist about your risk. If you have clogged blood vessels elsewhere in your body, it is possible that your carotid arteries which take blood to the brain may also be clogged.
Bay Medical’s cath lab offers a unique procedure to open those clogged vessels. Using a special protection device, a cardiologist can place a stent in the carotid artery to open the blocked vessel. This protection is necessary to prevent plaque from breaking off while the stent is being placed and traveling up the blood stream into the brain. In addition, for those who are not a candidate for stenting, cardiovascular surgeons offer a carotid endarterectomy which is a surgical procedure to physically remove the plaque from the carotid artery. Opening these vessels and improving the blood flow to the brain can significantly reduce your risk of stroke.
Lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk:
- Stub it out. If you smoke, quit. It’s one of the most important health measures you can take to reduce stroke risk.
- Take an exam. Have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. If you can’t remember when you last had a physical, get one as soon as you can.
- Change your diet for the better. What we eat has a direct connection to how well we fare against illness. If you’re not already doing so, increase your servings of heart-healthy fish, grains, fruits and vegetables and reduce fat and sodium.
- Get moving. Regular exercise can help keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels within a healthy range. It also aids weight control, improves your mood and helps you sleep better.
- Be woman-wise. Being female means you have several gender-specific risk factors for stroke. If you take birth-control pills or hormone-replacement therapy or if you suffer from migraine headaches or an autoimmune disorder, talk with your doctor about whether you are at increased risk.
- Curb your alcohol intake. Because alcohol raises blood pressure, the American Stroke Association and many other health agencies urge women to limit alcohol consumption to one serving of beer, wine or liquor a day as compared to two servings for men.