Know the Signs of Stroke
Is it a Stroke? Here’s How You Can Tell
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds—and every four minutes, someone dies of a stroke. Stroke also is a leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S.
Although these statistics may sound alarming, knowing the signs of stroke can help you get immediate stroke treatment and may lower the risk that you or a loved one will die or have serious, lasting stroke complications.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to a part of your brain is blocked or cut off. When a specific part of your brain doesn’t get the blood it needs, your brain cells in that area will begin to die.
Different parts of your brain control your different body functions, such as your ability to move, see, remember, speak and think. That’s why the effects of a stroke can be different for each person; the complications you experience depend on the location and amount of damage to your brain tissue.
What are the signs of a stroke?
If you think you or a loved one might be having a stroke, it’s important that you act quickly. Stroke symptoms usually come on suddenly, but they sometimes can be mild at first and get worse over several hours. In some cases, stroke symptoms may be barely noticeable — and they can even appear and go away.
To help you learn the signs of stroke, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association developed the F.A.S.T. system, which assigns a stroke symptom to each letter. F.A.S.T. stands for:
- F – Face drooping. A drooping or numb face is a sign of stroke. One common sign is an uneven or crooked smile.
- A – Arm weakness. A stroke may cause one arm to feel weaker than the other, or you may have trouble holding one arm up in the air.
- S – Speech difficulty. A stroke can cause your speech to become slurred. It also can make you hard to understand or even unable to speak. If you are having a stroke, you may not be able to say or repeat a simple sentence.
- T – Time to call 911. If you or someone else shows any stroke symptoms, even if the symptoms are mild or disappear, you should dial 911 right away. Because every second counts when it comes to stroke care, it’s important that you do not attempt to drive to the hospital emergency department yourself. Paramedics are well-versed in stroke care and can begin life-saving treatment right away. And, driving could be dangerous for you and other drivers.
Other signs of stroke may include:
- Confusion or trouble understanding what others are saying
- Numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body, that affects areas other than the arms or face
- Vision problems
- Problems with walking, balance or coordination
- Severe headache
What should I do after I call 911 for stroke symptoms?
When you call 911, be sure to tell the operator that you think you or a loved one may be having a stroke. You also should note the time when symptoms started so the treatment team can provide the best care.
If you are able, you should let the 911 operator know where the paramedics can find you or your loved one. If you are at home, you should unlock the door — but only if you can do so safely.
Who is at risk for stroke?
As you age, your stroke risk increases. However, a stroke can occur in people of any age. You also are at an increased risk of stroke if you smoke or have chronic conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
How can I lower my stroke risk?
You can lower your stroke risk by quitting smoking and taking steps to manage or avoid chronic conditions.
Maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of exercise and eating a diet that is rich in lean proteins, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent chronic conditions. If you have a chronic condition, you should follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for taking your medication and make sure to go to all your medical appointments.
The nurse practitioners (NPs) at The Nurse’s Office will work with you to promote healthy lifestyle habits and provide care for chronic conditions. To find out more about how the NPs at The Nurse’s Office can help you lower your stroke risk, visit www.thenursesoffice.com, call (860) 603-3541 or walk in for immediate care.