Could you recognize the symptoms of a stroke if it was happening to someone close to you? Would you know how to help?

“Almost 780,000 Americans suffer from a stroke every year. More than 150,000 stroke victims die, making stroke the third most common cause of death,” notes Noel C. Borck, the LHSFNA’s Management Co-Chairman. “It’s important to know the facts about stroke, including how to prevent one and what to do if one happens.”

What is a TIA?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) develops when blood flow to the brain is temporarily interrupted. Symptoms are similar to those of an acute stroke; however, they do not last as long. One third of people who suffer a TIA will have an acute stroke in the future, so it is important to treat the warning signs seriously. Consult a doctor immediately if you have stroke-like symptoms.

The brain needs blood and oxygen to function properly. A stroke occurs when a blockage obstructs that flow or a blood vessel bursts. When the brain cannot get enough blood, parts of the brain that are cut off from oxygen literally start to die.

Strokes can be classified into two types: ischemic and hemorrhagic.

  • An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Eight out of ten strokes are of this variety, and they are common among older adults.
  • A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. This causes bleeding in the brain. While less common, it is the most deadly type of stroke.

Certain groups are particularly susceptible to stroke. The risk of stroke increases after the age of 55. Men are more likely to have a stroke than women, and African Americans have the highest risk of stroke. A family history of strokes is also a risk factor.

A stroke can cause permanent brain damage, so it is critical to seek immediate medical attention if any of these warning signs appear:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (symptoms often occur on one side of the body)
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
  • Loss of consciousness

If any of these symptoms occur, call 9-1-1 immediately. Time is of the essence. Do not delay.

Borck adds, “Stroke prevention starts with managing your risk factors. While certain biological facts like family history, age and race cannot be changed, your lifestyle can reduce your risk of having a stroke.” The Mayo Clinic suggests the following:

  • Get tested for medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes and follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Monitor your cholesterol levels.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce stress.

The Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America has several publications that educate members and signatory contractors on stroke prevention including: High Blood Pressure, Nutrition and Fitness for Laborers, Heart @ Work, Ways to Manage Your STRESS and Smoking: Facts and Quitting Tips. Order materials online.

[Jennifer E. Jones]