Watching for Strokes this Holiday Season - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Watching for Strokes this Holiday Season

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

It's the season, not just for family and presents and giving, but also for stress. The most common cause of strokes is blockage. Neurologist James Richards M.D., the Stroke Director at St. Vincent Healthcare, told KULR-8 that the two kinds of strokes are bleeding strokes and ischemic strokes. Bleeding strokes make up about 10% to 12% of strokes. Ischemic strokes are caused by a portion of the brain not getting blood supply.

"Most typically, in the mnemonic, FAST applies to face, arm and speech. So the more common area, particularly if it's in the dominant side where your speech is located, would be trouble speaking, a droopiness on one side of the face, and typically weakness of that arm would be the most common. But it could vary from visual problems to imbalance, to numbness. So, you've got to be very broad-minded as to what could be a stroke."

Richards said age is a big factor in strokes. "Just because of the natural effects of age on our blood vessels and arteriosclerotic closing." In younger people, Richards explained doctors worry about conditions like atrial fibrillation, which is when the heart goes into an irregular rhythm and does not contract properly.  "It allows a clot to build up in the atrium, the upper chamber of the heart, and then those clots can break off and travel." When doctors look at the risk of stroke, high blood pressure is the #1 factor. "A longstanding poorly controlled high blood pressure is the #1 issue that tends to bring people in at any age." Diabetes and tobacco use are also issues when it comes to strokes.

When someone is having a stroke, calling 9-1-1 is the obvious first thing to do, but Richards says to give the person an Aspirin. "If the person is conscious and could swallow safely, then getting them an Aspirin right at that time is probably the one useful thing they can do."

However, Aspirin does not work for everyone. Richards told KULR-8 that a blood test can show if Aspirin is working for a stroke survivor. He said anywhere from 20% to 30% of people are Aspirin resistant. "That's one thing we assess and decide, should they be on a different drug to make the blood less sticky?"

Richards said people who have diabetes and high blood pressure should do their best to control those risk factors.

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