A quick response to the first symptoms of a stroke can be the difference between minor or no permanent injuries and a lifetime of pain and disability. Early stroke care is critical. Sadly, many people don’t know the early signs of a stroke. As a result, many stroke patients do not seek emergency medical treatment at the first sign of a stroke. Sometimes by the time they do seek treatment, it is too late.
A person who receives a “clot-busting medication” within the first three hours of stroke symptoms has a better chance of avoiding any disability than someone who does not receive the clot dissolving medication. Additional research proves that patients who receive both clot-busting medication and have the clot mechanically removed (a thrombectomy) have the best outcomes. For more information about stroke treatment, click here.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off (ischemic or “dry” stroke) or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, dumping blood into the spaces surrounding the brain cells (hemorrhagic stroke). Ischemic strokes account for almost 90% of all strokes. When brain cells die, they are no longer receiving oxygen and nutrients from blood, or there is sudden bleeding into the brain.
A Stroke is Always an Emergency
A stroke occurs in the United States about once every 40 seconds. Everyone should be familiar with the signs of a stroke. You never know when your knowledge could save a life or keep someone from suffering permanent damage. In stroke language, time lost is brain lost.
The National Stroke Association suggests using the term “FAST” to check for stroke symptoms.
- F = FACE: You may notice a droop or uneven smile.
- A = ARMS: Arms may be weak or numb. If you suspect a stroke, ask the person to raise their arms. If the arm drops down or appear unsteady, the person may be having a stroke.
- S = SPEECH: Slurred speech may indicate a stroke. Ask the person to repeat something to see how they respond.
- T = TIME: This last part of the acronym is a warning to respond quickly if you think someone is having a stroke. Call 911 immediately.
Additional Stroke Symptoms
In addition to the above, a person who is experiencing a stroke may present any of these symptoms:
- Problems with balance and walking
- Numb arms or legs — especially on one side
- Vision problems, including doublevision
Stroke Symptoms Are Sometimes Different for Women
It is especially important to note that women who are having a stroke may have symptoms that are different than men. Here are some things to watch for:
- Shortness of breath
For more information on stroke symptoms in women, click here.
Do Children Have Different Stroke Symptoms than Adults?
Yes. While the FAST signs are signs of stroke in children just like adults, children sometimes have different stroke symptoms than adults do.
How to minimize the risk of stroke
There are many things you can do to stay healthy and prevent a stroke from occurring:
- Be sure to take your high blood pressure medication as directed.
- Get moderate exercise daily, at least 30 minutes.
- Eat more veggies, nuts and beans
- Reduce the amount of red meat you eat and replace it with fresh-caught seafood, free-range poultry and organic eggs.
- Reduce your consumption of unhealthy fats, especially those found in highly processed foods.
- Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Treat diabetes if you have the condition.
- Reduce your consumption of sugars.
- Consume no more than 1500 milligrams (1/2 teaspoon) of sodium daily.
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure, ideally 120/80.
Be prepared to help family, friends and strangers who may be having a medical crisis. In addition to basic first aid and CPR, it is essential that each of us knows how to spot the signs of a stroke and know how to respond. Our lives depend on it.