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Learning to Recognize Stroke Warning Signs

February 28, 2017
Published in: Stroke

Watercolor illustration of the brain

For someone having a stroke, fast action can make a huge difference. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, getting emergency assistance within an hour can prevent death or long-term disability. Individuals treated with a blood-clot-dissolving drug within three hours of symptoms appearing have a 30 percent better chance of escaping disability. In some cases, strokes may require surgical treatment. The sooner a stroke victim receives help, the better their chances are for recovery.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain ceases, and brain cells in the area start to die. A stroke can affect the entire body, not just the brain.

Who is at Risk for Stroke?Strokes can affect the entire body, not just the brain.

  • Anyone can experience a stroke. Risk increases with age, but a stroke can happen at any age. At least a third of people hospitalized for a stroke are younger than age 65.
  • Women have a higher risk of stroke than men. Every year, more than 55,000 women and men experience a stroke.
  • Smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol increase the risk of stroke.
  • Blacks and Hispanics are at greater risk of stroke than whites. Blacks are more likely to die of a stroke than Hispanics or whites.

Detecting a Stroke FAST

Stroke symptoms often come on suddenly, and without warning. You can recognize a stroke if you observe the following signs:

F is for "Face"Droopiness or numbness in the face.
A is for "Arm"Weakness in one arm or not being able to raise both arms.
S is for "Speech"Difficulty speaking or slurred speech that is difficult to understand.
T is for "Time"If any of the above symptoms are present, get to the ER right away.

Symptoms in Women Can Differbe FAST identifying and reacting to a stroke

For women, the signs of a stroke can be different. These symptoms happen suddenly and may include:

  • Fainting
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Confusion
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Sudden Behavior Change
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Life After a Stoke

There are two main types of stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Ischemic stroke happens because of a blockage in the artery. You can also experience a mini-stroke, referred to as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is caused by a temporary blockage. A TIA doesn't cause permanent damage, but it does increase the risk for stroke.

Individuals recovering from a stroke can experience:

  • Weakness or paralysis
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in senses
  • Memory problems
  • Attention difficulties
  • Perception issues
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depression
  • Vision problems

Prepare for a Stroke Emergency

Individuals at risk for stroke can be prepared to increase their chances of survival and recovery. Some necessary preparations for stroke can include:

  1. Educating friends and family about "FAST"
  2. Wearing medical identification
  3. Listing emergency contacts on a cell phone
  4. Keeping a list of medications on hand
  5. Teaching children to call 9-1-1.

Preventing Stroke

In the case of a stroke, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Having one stroke increases your risk for having another. You can take steps to minimize risk factors by doing the following:

  • Exercise more
  • Eat more veggies, nuts, and beans
  • Limiting fat intake
  • Limiting sodium and sugar intake
  • Avoiding refined grains
  • Quitting tobacco use
  • Drinking in moderation
  • Taking high blood pressure medications as directed

The most important thing to remember is that if someone appears to be suffering from stroke, getting help fast is absolutely essential. Access to certain medications can make a recovery less difficult and increase odds of survival. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you suspect someone is having a stroke.

If you're coping with life after a stroke or believe you may be at risk for a stroke, the Augusta Health Stroke Center is here to help. Call today to talk with one of our experienced stroke experts: (540) 245-7764