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What you should know about preventing, spotting and treating stroke

May 02, 2017 | Heather Shannon
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Although May is Stroke Awareness Month, strokes can strike at any time of year. They are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of adult disability.

Here's what you need to know to prevent, spot or get treatment for a stroke.

person getting blood pressure checked to prevent strokeThe No. 1 cause of stroke

High blood pressure is called the "silent killer."

When you have hypertension, the force of blood pushing against your artery walls gradually weakens and damages them.

Over time, this leads to sections that can bulge out and then rupture or become inflamed, narrow and clogged, says Dr. Wengui Yu, a neurologist at UCI Health.

Don't wait for symptoms of high blood pressure appear before you address the issue.

Yu cautions that once symptoms arise, damage has already been done.

Learn more about preventing or managing hypertension ›

woman getting hair shampooed at salon

What rarely causes a stroke

Google "beauty parlor stroke" and you'll see several stories about the dangers of leaning back in the salon chair for a shampoo.

The problem is, says Yu, it's extremely uncommon and exaggerated.

Other very rare causes of stroke include:

  • Arterial dissection from neck massage or chiropractic treatment. This is more likely to happen with whiplash, as in a car accident.
  • Certain yoga poses, such as plow, triangle and headstand, can present a risk. However, Yu has never heard of such a case.
  • Extreme emotions, such as anger or anxiety. These emotions can lead to elevated blood pressure, which can cause a stroke.

Read more about strange causes of strokes ›

signs of stroke infographic

What to do if someone is having a stroke

Quickly recognizing the signs of a stroke can save a life. When strokes happen, they demand immediate attention. "Every minute is critical," says Dr. Steven C. Cramer, a neurologist at UCI Health. Know the signs of a stroke ›

Some critical do's and don'ts when you witness a stroke include:

  • Don't drive to the hospital - call 9-1-1. The paramedics will know the designated stroke centers in the area.
  • Don't give the person aspirin. It could do serious harm.
  • Don't give the person food or drink. The loss of muscle control affects swallowing ability, increasing the risk of choking.
  • Do use the word "stroke" when you call 9-1-1.
  • Do write down the time.
  • Do check the person's breathing, loosen restrictive clothing and have them lie down.

Read on for more do's and don'ts ›

woman packing for vacation

What to do if you have a stroke on vacation

Strokes can happen anytime, anywhere — even when you're miles from home.

When you're at home, you count on paramedics to take you to the nearest comprehensive stroke center, which is equipped to handle the most complex cases at a moment's notice.

When you're away on vacation, it's important to know what to do to ensure prompt and expert care for yourself or your loved one.

  • Request to be taken to the nearest comprehensive stroke center; if there isn't one, you will be taken to the nearest community hospital.
  • If you are taken to a community hospital, request to be transferred to a comprehensive stroke center after stabilization.

Learn more about what questions you should ask ›

nurse comforting stroke patient

Specialized nursing for stroke patients

Access to specialized care makes all the difference in stroke outcomes. In addition to physicians, radiologists and rehabilitation specialists, UCI Health has a team of more than 20 nurses with advanced credentials in neuroscience, critical care and stroke care.

Stroke Care and Certified Neuroscience credentials are valid for five years, while the Critical Care credential is valid for three. These certifications give patients and families confidence in the nurse's ability to care for them using the latest knowledge and advanced expertise.

Learn more about advanced nursing for stroke patients ›

images of brain after stroke

Improving stroke survival and outcomes

Advances in stroke treatment have improved outcomes for ischemic strokes, which are the most common type. Effective treatment for intracerebral hemorrhages has been elusive — until recently.

UCI Health neurosurgeon Dr. Jefferson W. Chen led two studies on treating such strokes.

Use of the BrainPath surgical tool, guided by stereotactic imaging, has been effective in removing intracerebral hemorrhages, improving patient outcomes and preserving brain function while accessing deep-seated tumors and clots.

Learn more about BrainPath ›

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