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Stroke Awareness: Know the signs, act FAST

Stroke Awareness Saves Lives

Would you know what to do if you were having a stroke?

If you are having any of the following warning signs, you may be having a stroke, even if you’re a younger person.

Don’t wait to see if you’ll start to feel yourself again. You or someone else should call 911 right away and get to the nearest stroke center. The sooner treatment starts, the more likely it will help. Every minute counts.


    • Face: Look for an uneven smile.
    • Arm: Check whether one arm is weak.
    • Speech: Listen for slurred speech.
  • Time: Call 911 right away.

A stroke is a brain attack caused by blocked or broken blood vessels (veins and arteries). The blocked or broken blood vessels keep blood from flowing to your brain. Blood is needed to supply nutrients and oxygen to your brain. Oxygen is very important to the brain. If the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain stops, the brain cells will begin to die – and the result is a stroke.

Many factors that can put you at risk of having a stroke. Stroke awareness means understanding these risks, allowing you to take care of yourself better. Risks are divided into three categories: personal factors, medical/health-related factors and lifestyle choices.

Stroke kills about 140,000 Americans every year, with a stroke occurring about once every 40 seconds.  The incidence of stroke has jumped 44 percent in the past decade in Santa Clara County. The information in this article could save you or someone you know. 

Personal factors for stroke

Personal factors include age, gender, race and family history. These factors can’t be changed, but you should be aware of them in determining your risk. The chance of having a stroke increases with age. Two out of three stroke cases occur in people older than 65. Men are 25 percent more likely to have strokes than women.

Race is related to genetic factors. Genes may predict whether a person may or may not have stroke. For example, African Americans have higher rates of high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

Finally, family history can affect your chances of having a stroke.

You are at higher risk to have a stroke if any of your family members have had:

    • High blood pressure.
    • High cholesterol.
    • Brain vessel disease (also known as cerebrovascular disease).
  • Mini-stroke (TIA) or stroke.

A woman gets her blood pressure checked at an event sponsored by the Stroke Awareness Foundation and the Red Cross.

Even though you have no control over these personal factors, you can take steps to lower the risk. There are many things you can do, for instance:


    • Change your diet.
    • Exercise.
    • Change your lifestyle. Stop smoking, especially.
    • Manage your stress.
  • Work with your doctor to control changeable risk factors.

Medical and health-related factors

Among medical/health-related factors, diabetes plays a role with stroke. If you have diabetes, you have a higher chance of having a stroke. Many people with diabetes may have build-up on the inside walls of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can reduce or stop the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.


After a stroke, other factors may make it harder to get well as fast as others who do not have diabetes.

Lifestyle choices


Lifestyle choices such as using birth control pills or tobacco products can increase your risk of stroke, too.

Birth control pills contain a hormone called estrogen. Estrogen can cause blood to clot more easily. The more estrogen there is in the pill, the higher the risk of having a stroke. Women who are taking birth control pills who are over the age of 30 years and who smoke are at even higher risk of having a stroke.

Using tobacco products by smoking cigarettes or cigars, chewing and snuffing can increase your risk of having a stroke. Of the many chemicals found in tobacco, nicotine is the one that causes you to become addicted, making your body begin to “need” more and more nicotine in order to “feel better.” Nicotine can increase your blood pressure and heart rate. This means that your heart has to work harder than normal for blood to flow to the body. As a result, your heart and blood vessels may become damaged easily.

If you smoke, you are also exposed to another chemical called carbon monoxide. Together, nicotine and carbon monoxide reduce the amount of oxygen getting to the brain. This increases the risk of having a stroke and many other diseases.

VMC stroke care team

If you have a stroke, the stroke care team at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center has special training in taking care of patients with brain injuries, including strokes. Their goals are to:

    • Help you recover from the effects of a stroke.
    • Prevent complications.
  • Do whatever possible to prevent another stroke from occurring.

The team works with patients and families to reach these goals.

Support and understanding are important in your recovery. It is important that patients and families are active members in taking care of the patient’s health. We encourage questions and provide information so that patients and families know what to do when they go home.

The stroke care team is here to get you the treatment you need.


Nearest stroke center?

There’s an app from the Stroke Awareness Foundation for that.

September 13, 2018

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September 2018
Santa Clara County