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| Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

A stroke occurs, somewhere in the United States of America, every 40 seconds. Stroke kills an average of 137,000 people annually. It is the fourth leading cause of death in our country, and the number one cause of long-term disability.

The statistics are frightening, as are the long term effects of stroke, which can include paralysis, loss of speech, difficulty swallowing, visual impairment or disturbance, and a host of neurological dysfunctions. But there is good news underneath all of these very alarming numbers. The American Stroke Association reports that understanding the risk factors, practicing an ounce of prevention, and knowing how to spot a stroke in progress can dramatically reduce your chances of serious debilitation from stroke.

Stroke occurs when a vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked or ruptured, depriving the brain of oxygen, and in some instances, allowing blood to seep into the surrounding brain tissue. In the minutes following this loss of blood flow, brain cells begin to die.

Doctors classify stroke by two main types, ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes account for 87% of all stroke cases. When a blood vessel becomes blocked by fatty deposits, blood has trouble passing through to the brain. An ischemic stroke is caused by this obstruction. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a weakened blood vessel that ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Once specific type of hemorrhagic stroke is an aneurysm, an aneurysm is a sort of bubble in a blood vessel that can grow until it bursts.

Being prepared to identify the early signs of a stroke can lessen its long term effects, and increase your chances of survival. The American Stroke Association tells us to use the F.A.S.T. acronym – If you see Face drooping, Arm weakness or Speech difficulty, it's Time to call 911. Other signs that a stroke may be approaching include sudden numbness in the legs, sudden confusion or trouble seeing, sudden dizziness or loss of balance, or a sudden severe headache.

High blood pressure is the number one risk factor doctors use to identify potential stroke patients, with poor dietary choices and health habits, including smoking and lack of exercise completing the list. There are certain genetic disorders that can increase your chance of suffering a stroke.

If you think you might be at risk for stroke, the American Stroke Association has a published a F.A.S.T. mobile app for iPhones and iPads, available through the AppStore, with an Android version in the works. Don’t leave yourself open to the possibility of a stroke, a little knowledge can help protect you and your loved ones.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton and Favaloro personal injury law firm, whose attorneys work out of offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, Eastern Shore Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service.

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