NORFOLK, Va. - Strokes are one of the major leading causes of death in the United States. The recent death of actor Luke Perry from a stroke at just 52 years old is a reminder that it can happen at any age.
"Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States," said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light. "Approximately 800,000 strokes occur annually. One in every 20 deaths is caused by strokes, according to the American Heart Association."
Dr. Light said they are two types of risk factors: lifestyle and genetic.
"Genetic risk factors include age, race, sex and family history," he explained. "People with the highest genetic risk are African-Americans, males 55 and older. Lifestyle factors are smoking, alcoholism, drug use, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes."
Dr. Light explained the five common signs and symptoms as:
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg.
- Confusion or trouble speaking
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Dizziness, or loss of balance
- Severe headache
"If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms call 911 immediately," Dr. Light stressed. "With timely treatment the risk of death and disability is significantly lowered."
Dr. Light said there are steps we can take to prevent a stroke.
"Stroke risk can be lowered by a healthy lifestyle," he said. "A healthy lifestyle starts with a health diet, regular exercise, maintenance of ideal body weight, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or with history of previous stroke or heart attack should take their medication as prescribed to keep these conditions under control."