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Features

The link between COVID-19 and stroke

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and major cause of long-term disability in adults.

Now there is growing evidence that COVID-19 infection may also increase the risk of stroke.

While 75 percent of all strokes occur in people over age 65, strokes are now striking people with COVID-19 who are in their 30s and 40s.

Typically ischemic stroke occurs due to sudden blockage of blood flow to the brain and causes sudden neurological deficits. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and diabetes are leading causes of stroke

Experts believe these covid-related strokes may be a result of blood clots caused by the virus. While mini-strokes often don’t cause permanent damage, bigger ones can be catastrophic.

Preliminary data suggests patients with COVID-19 are mostly experiencing severe or large strokes — which can destroy parts of the brain responsible for movement, speech and decision-making.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it is especially important for people to be vigilant and aware of stroke signs. If someone has stroke symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately. Even a large stroke is treatable if treated quickly.

“Time is brain” is something doctors say when it comes to treating a patient who’s having a strokeEvery second can mean the difference between life and death, total independence or long-term disability.

Do not avoid seeking help due to concerns of exposure to coronavirus.

BE FAST can help stroke patients get the treatment needed, on time, for a good outcome.

B: Balance. Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?

E: Eyes. Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?

F: Face. Does the person’s face look uneven?

A: Arms. Is one arm weak or numb?

S: Speech. Is the person’s speech slurred? Does the person have trouble speaking or seem confused?

T: Time. If you see these signs in yourself or anyone, call 911 immediately.

Up to 80 percent of strokes may be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. Here are five ways to help decrease the chance of stroke:

Lower blood pressure. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors and can double or even quadruple the chance for stroke.

Lose excess weight and eat healthy. Obesity increases the chance for stroke. Losing as few as 10 pounds can help decrease the risk.

Quit smoking. Smoking can thicken blood and increase the amount of plaque build-up in arteries — two things that can accelerate clot formation.

Exercise more or start exercising. Physical activity can help lower the risk of stroke. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly.

Manage health conditions. Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol can increase the chance for stroke.

Stroke survivors should continue taking their medications as directed by their doctor and be extra careful about protecting themselves from COVID-19.

For updates on COVID-19, visit EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

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