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Real Men Wear Gowns: Strokes

May is National Stroke Awareness Month.

When you have a stroke, it's important to act quickly. 

If you don't, you can experience more damage to your brain.  

A stroke happens when there is a shortage of blood reaching your brain. 

"There’s narrowing of the blood vessels, there’s not enough blood getting through so you’re starving the brain of blood," said Teresa Tran-Lim, the Senior Medical Director of Neural Sciences at Health Partners.

Strokes are the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S. 

In the U.S., someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. That translates into about 800,000 strokes per year. 

Tran-Lim has seen a lot of stroke patients and stresses a quick response is the key to stroke management. 

"You have a very narrow window of making a difference," Tran-Lim said. "Beyond that, you are allowing the disease to run its course."

The quicker you receive treatment after having a stroke, the lower your chances are of brain damage, disability or even death. 

Signs and symptoms of stroke can be identified by remembering the acronym FAST.

Signs of a stroke

Facial drooping

Arm weakness

Speech difficulties

Time to call 911

The chance of having a stroke increases with age, but strokes are not just common in older populations.

"The prevalence of strokes across the adult age of 20-on is something like 3.5 percent," Tran-Lim said. "But, above the age of 45 it's estimated that 18 percent of people have strokes." 

And, they affect women more than men.

"For young and middle-aged adults, men are more at risk," Tran-Lim said. "But the lifetime risk is actually higher in women." 

But there are ways to reduce the risk of strokes. 

Some of the more common stroke risk factors include high-blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking. 

"Cigarette smoking is big. It increases the risk of stroke like twofold compared to everything else." Tran-Lim said. 

But it’s never too late to butt out…

"There is something to be said about smoking cessation. It actually does work," Tran-Lim said. "It reverses the risk of stroke to zero in people who have abstained from tobacco use for 10 years."

Add that to a healthy diet and physical activity 3 to 4 times per week, and you’ll reduce your chance of stroke.

To learn more about signs, symptoms and how to reduce your risk of strokes, head to the National Stroke Association's website.

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