SIGNS: How to Recognize a Stroke

Did you know May was the National Stroke Month? When it comes to stroke every second counts. Acting fast can literally be the difference between life and death.

Strokes are more common than you think. Every 40 seconds, someone in this country experiences one, and one out of every 20 deaths in the United States is the result of a stroke.  

What are the Facts?

  • anyone, regardless of age, can have a stroke
  • nearly 80% of strokes can be preventable
  • one person dies of a stroke, on average, every 4 minutes
  • stroke is the fifth leading cause of deaths in the US
  • stroke is a leading cause of severe disabilities
  • more than 795,000 people in the US have a stroke each year
  • 1 out of 19th deaths from all causes is from a stroke

What happens when you have a stroke?

When someone has a stroke, nearly 2 million brain cells die every minute the stroke remains untreated.

Having rapid access to medical treatment can often make the difference between living and dying of a stroke, and between fully recovering and having some disability as a result of the stroke.

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, happens in one of two ways:

  • Ischemic stroke—when the blood supply to the brain is blocked
  • Hemorrhagic stroke—when a blood vessel in the brain bursts

How can you prevent a stroke?

You can greatly reduce your risk for stroke by making lifestyle changes to help control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and, in some cases, by taking medication.

7 Simple Tips to Prevent a Stroke

  • eat healthier
  • manage blood pressure
  • stop smoking
  • reduce stress
  • become active
  • reduce blood sugars
  • control your cholesterol

 Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

CDC recommends an easy way to remember the most common signs of stroke and how to respond by using an acronym: F.A.S.T

F = Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
A = Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
T = Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.

Other common signs of strokes suggested by the CDC are:
  • Sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Sudden numbness of the face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding others

If you think that you or someone you know is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency, and stroke treatment and outcomes depend on how fast you get to the hospital and the type of stroke the person had.

When you are transported by ambulance, first responders may be able to start your treatment right away and can alert the hospital that a stroke patient is on the way. This notification gives the hospital’s medical team time to prepare equipment and medicines you may need.

How is a stroke diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform several tests that will help them diagnose a stroke.  These tests can include stroke imaging, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT Scans (computed tomography), blood flow tests, or tests of the brain’s electrical activity.

How is a stroke treated?

First of all, if you think you may have a stroke, head immediately to an emergency room, call an ambulance, or have someone else call an ambulance. Treatment for a stroke may include emergency care, prevention of another stroke, rehabilitation if a disability occurred that will help you re-learn the skills you may have lost because of the stroke or all of the above. Additionally, your doctor most likely will also recommend lifestyle changes to help you lower the risk from future strokes. Talk with your doctor about the best ways to reduce your chances to have a stroke and take any prescription medicine they will give you to help you with this. 

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Video: Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

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