IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The death of actor Luke Perry from a stroke is leading many to ask more questions about strokes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes will kill about 140,000 Americans each year. So, what exactly is a stroke?
"A stroke is a neurological event where the blood flow to the brain gets shut off," said Dr. Bradford Talcott, a neurologist with The Sleep Specialists. "Usually it happens because an artery has gotten small. Or sometimes a blood clot from somewhere else like the heart may have passed into an artery and plugged it up."
A stroke will hit immediately with hardly any warning signs. One key indicator you or someone around you is having a stroke is one-sided weakness and difficulty speaking.
"Often it's the face will droop and the arm will be weak," Talcott said. "Sometimes the leg is involved. It can affect the whole body. Usually it's on one side. A second very common thing is difficulty with speech. So you either can't talk or you lose the ability to say words that make sense or you don't understand what's going on around you."
Talcott says the most common cause of a stroke is high blood pressure. Taking steps to treat this and other health issues can lower your chances of getting a stroke.
"If you're got high blood pressure, you definitely want to treat it," Talcott said. "Strokes are also caused by diabetes, by obstructive sleep apnea and by a host of other risk factors, like cholesterol issues, not getting enough exercise - things like that."
Talcott says too many people ignore the signs of a stroke. He says getting medicine within three hours of a stroke will give you the best chance for recovery. There is still hope if you wait four to 4 1/2 hours but going more than that leaves little to be done other than natural recovery.
"If you see someone having stroke-like symptoms, don't just go to bed and say, "I'm gonna sleep it off, It's gonna be fine. It's gonna be OK in the morning," because if it is a stroke and you do that you will have passed the time where we can actually do anything to help you," Talcott said. "And then whatever damage has happened will be done and there's nothing that can be done to reverse it."
Doctors say, once a stroke has occurred, time is brain.
Luke Perry was only 52, which doctors say is very young to have a stroke. Strokes are most common in people ages 70 and older.