Heart Disease & Stroke – A Shared Risk

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Unfortunately, there is a strong link between heart disease and stroke. According to the American Stroke Association, patients with angina or coronary heart disease (or who have atherosclerosis and have also had a heart attack), have twice the risk of having a stroke than a person without these types of heart disease. Conversely, having had a stroke is also a risk factor for heart disease.

The good news is that there are many risk factors common to both conditions that can be controlled either through lifestyle changes or treatment to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. These include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting plenty of regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing conditions like cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes

If you or someone you love does have heart disease, it is important that you have an understanding of what a stroke is and the symptoms associated with one.

What Is A Stroke?
A stroke is an interruption of blood flow to the brain caused by a blockage or bleeding from a ruptured blood vessel. This reduced blood supply results in a lack of oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the brain, which can cause damage to the brain cells. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment to minimize damage to the brain.

The outcome of a stroke depends on the extent of the damage. While some people make a full recovery, others suffer physical, cognitive and emotional impairments. A stroke can also be fatal: it is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States.

Types of Stroke
The most common type of stroke is an Ischemic Stroke, which is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel to the brain. Over 80% of all strokes are Ischemic. Another type of stroke caused by obstruction is a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). Often referred to as a mini-stroke, this type of stroke is caused by a temporary clot that does not cause permanent damage. However, it should be taken very seriously, as 30% of patients who experience a TIA will have a more severe stroke in the future. A third type of stroke is a Hemorrhagic Stroke, which occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. In some cases, the cause of a stroke remains unknown, despite diagnostics such as blood tests and imaging. This type of stroke is known as a Cryptogenic Stroke.

What Are The Symptoms Of Stroke?
A stroke often occurs without any warning. The main signs of stroke are sudden, and they include:

  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body (face, arm or leg)
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Vision problems
  • Confusion or difficulty understanding speech
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or difficulty walking
  • Severe headache

The most important thing to remember when it comes to stroke is the acronym F.A.S.T. It stands for:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

Remember: A stroke victim’s chances of survival and a full recovery are much better if they receive medical attention as quickly as possible. If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, don’t delay. Immediate emergency medical treatment is necessary.

If you are worried about your risk for stroke, are having symptoms of heart disease, or have other heart health concerns, the experienced cardiologists at ACS can help. To make an appointment, call 318-798-9400.

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