The signs of a stroke are important to know as acting quickly can make a big difference. Did you know, on average, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute that a stroke goes untreated?
Strokes affect nearly 800,000 people each year. They are no respecter of persons, age, race, or lifestyle.
In fact, strokes are the leading cause of death and disability in people of all ages.
They cause more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease. 25% of stroke survivors end up with a minor disability and 40% with moderate-to-severe disabilities.
These impairments can affect the ability to communicate, walk, eat independently, bathe, dress, and independently complete other activities of daily life.
The only way to reduce or impede the damage is to respond quickly. The faster that person gets to the hospital for treatment, the better their chances for survival and recovery. That means awareness is crucial. That means, you as the bystander need to be aware, informed, and responsive to the warning signs.
And, you need to know what to do. Because, being alert and familiar with the signs of stroke, equals a quick response that can save someone’s life or reduce their chance of developing major disabilities.
What is a stroke?
Think of a stroke as a “brain attack.” It happens when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off, depriving the brain cells of oxygen.
When that happens, brain cells die. When brain cells die, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are permanently lost.
There are 5 main types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke (clots)– accounts for 87% of all strokes. This happens when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked.
- Hemorrhagic stroke (bleeds). This happens when a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures, typically caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA). Often called a “mini stroke”. This is caused by a serious temporary blood clot. It’s a warning stroke and should be taken seriously.
- Cryptogenic stroke. In some cases, despite testing, the cause of a stroke cannot be determined and is called a “cryptogenic stroke”
- Brain stem stroke. This is a little more complex and can be difficult to diagnose. Severe brain stem strokes can cause locked-in syndrome where survivors can’t speak or move below the neck.
Signs of a STROKE
Common signs of a stroke: what to look out for
- face drooping
- arm weakness
- speech difficulty
- trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
- balance or coordination problems.
- Numbness or weakness of the leg, arm, or face
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
- Brief loss of consciousness
Women can also experience:
- General weakness
- Fatigue, nausea or vomiting
ACT F.A.S.T. – A shortcut to remember the signs of a stroke
F = Face drooping on one side.
Ask your older adult to smile – is it uneven
A = Is one Armweak or numb?
Ask them to raise both arms – is one arm weak?
S = Speech problems
like slurring, inability to speak, being incoherent. Ask them to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue” as a quick test.
T = Time to call 911.
If you see any of these signs, even if the symptoms don’t last, call 911 right away and get to the hospital ASAP.
What to do if you suspect a stroke
If you notice any of the signs of stroke, call 911 immediately.
Speed is very important. The faster your older adult gets to the hospital for treatment, the better their chances for survival and recovery.
Check the time so you can tell EMTs and doctors when the symptoms started.
If the stroke symptoms pass quickly, your older adult might have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA).
Don’t ignore a TIA, it’s a warning sign of future, more serious strokes. Early treatment and lifestyle changes can prevent a major or fatal stroke.
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