Time is brain: What you should know about strokes

According to Health Canada, strokes are the country's third leading cause of death and are a major contributor to disability-adjusted lives for Canadians. The 2017 report Different Strokes by the Heart and Stroke Foundation states that 80% of people now survive a stroke and that more than 400,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke.

Strokes occur when a brain blood vessel blocks (ischemic stroke) or ruptures (hemorrhagic stroke). When the blood supply is disrupted, brain cells do not receive adequate oxygen to function and die, damaging that part of the brain. The effects of a stroke depend on the severity of the blockage or rupture as well as the region of the brain impacted.
A stroke is a medical emergency.

“Time is brain, and therefore patients must seek medical care at the first sign of a stroke,” says Dr. Daniel Wong, Division Head of Neurology at North York General Hospital (NYGH). The phrase “time is brain” refers to the short window of time physicians can treat the brain after a stroke. The sooner treatment can begin, the better the outcome.
According to Dr. Wong, strokes are an incredible burden on our health system. While they are more common in adults aged 65 years and older, many people don't realize that the number of adults aged 20 and older has slowly risen over the years, some due to lifestyle choices. Dr. Wong points out that while heredity does play a role in stroke susceptibility, common risk factors include obesity, physical inactivity and smoking. “It's been said that heart health and brain health are linked,” he says. “So you can take care of both through regular activity, proper nutrition and an overall healthy lifestyle.”
Dr. Daniel Wong, Division Head of Neurology, North York General Hospital
Dr. Daniel Wong, Division Head of Neurology, North York General Hospital

Whether you're genetically predisposed to strokes or not, there are several preventative steps you can take to prevent strokes. “Quitting smoking is the obvious first step,” says Dr. Wong. Other health tips include reducing stress and being active to control high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of stroke.

“Have your blood pressure checked regularly,” recommends Dr. Wong. “And, as always, check-in with a health care professional to help identify potential risk factors and areas of health to improve. Developing a lifestyle plan is the first step.”

Warning signs of a stroke

  1. Weakness on one side of your body
  2. Numbness or tingling in your face, arm or leg
  3. Trouble speaking or understanding what others say
  4. Vision problems, such as double vision or being unable to see, especially in one eye
  5. Dizziness, such as losing your balance, especially if you are also showing other signs

Learn the signs of a stroke.

March 6, 2019

This article first appeared in the March 2019issue of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Subscribe to receive 10 issues per year.

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