Health Mart Pharmacist Column

HealthMart 2009

Strokes: What You Need to Know

By Annie Stuart

Did you know that stroke is the third leading cause of death in this country? Strokes also cause more serious, long-lasting disabilities than any other disease. More than three-quarters of a million people in the U.S. have strokes each year.1

First, letís get clear on exactly what a stroke is. A stroke Ė or "brain attack," as itís sometimes called Ė is a medical emergency just like a heart attack. It occurs when blood flow to the brain stops, causing blood cells to die within minutes. Usually a blood clot blocks a vessel in the brain. But a blood vessel that breaks may bleed into the brain, also causing a stroke. "Mini-strokes" occur when the brainís blood supply is cut off for a short time.2

Could you become one of the dreaded stroke statistics? Possibly. You are at increased risk for stroke if you are over age 55; male; African-American, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander; or if you or someone in your family has had a stroke in the past.

Even if you have all of these uncontrollable risk factors, you can take steps to prevent stroke. In fact, 8 out of 10 strokes can be prevented by:

Our Health Mart website can give you more tips on reducing some of these risks. Start here:

If you have a stroke, more than one ability may be affected, including your speech, memory, sight, movement, balance, and coordination. In addition, you may experience a severe headache, numbness, weakness, or even paralysis. Symptoms come on suddenly and often affect only one side of the body.2,3

If you ever have any of these symptoms, get yourself to the hospital right away. Donít wait, even if youíre not sure youíre having a stroke. Treatment can quickly dissolve clots or reduce bleeding.2 With prompt treatment, some people recover completely.3

Whatís life like after a stroke? If you or a loved one have had a stroke, you know how challenging it can be. A stroke can cause a range of problems from trouble with language, swallowing, or movement to depression, or personality changes and cognitive challenges. Itís important to know that many resources are available to help you. They include:

If you need advice about these and other forms of assistance. such as adaptive technology or home health care products, we can help point you in the right direction. Thereís no need to suffer in silence or alone.


  1. National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. "Know Stroke: Know the Signs. Act in Time."
  2. MedlinePlus website. "Stroke."
  3. National Stroke Association website. "What Is Stroke?"
  4. American Stroke Association website. "Post-Stroke Rehabilitation."