Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Yet, despite being a leading cause of death and adult disability, fewer than one in five people in the United States can recognize the symptoms of a stroke.
A stroke, often referred to as a “brain attack,” occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, and brain cells begin to die. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, affecting memory, speech, and movement.
According to the National Stroke Association, approximately 800,000 strokes will occur this year, taking a life approximately every four minutes.
Everyone knows that when you have chest pain you could be having a heart attack and should immediately go to the Emergency Department. However, when having a stroke many people don’t feel an urgency to seek medical treatment. They tend to let the symptoms go on for hours or longer before seeking treatment. This may be because most people are unaware of the warning signs.
Warning signs are clues your body sends that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen. It’s important to learn the signs and symptoms, since getting to the hospital and receiving medical attention quickly can help lead to a better recovery.
Although symptoms may develop gradually, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs such as:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding.
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Difficulty walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination.
- Severe headache with no known cause.
Watch for these symptoms and be prepared to act quickly for yourself or on behalf of someone you are with. Getting immediate medical attention for stroke is crucial — don’t delay, dial 9-1-1 right away!
“Stroke is one of the most preventable of all life-threatening health problems. Making simple lifestyle changes and working with your doctor to help you manage risk factors can help reduce your risk of stroke.”
Here are some tips:
- Get moving, stay active and incorporate exercise into your daily routine. A sedentary
lifestyle can lead to an increased risk of stroke. Regular exercise can strengthen your arteries and prevent buildup of plaque in blood vessels.
- Kick the habit! If you are a regular smoker, make a resolution to quit. It may be one of the very best things you can do for your health. Even if you have smoked for years, you can still reduce your risk by quitting now. Seek help if you need it.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that is low in fat and sodium (salt), but rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Control your blood pressure. Over time high blood pressure damages blood vessels in the brain. A combination of a well-balance diet and exercise can help reduce your risk. If diet and exercise doesn’t lower your blood pressure to a safe level, your doctor may prescribe medication.
- If you have diabetes it is important for you to monitor your blood sugar, weight, and A1C levels.
- Follow the treatment guidelines provided by your doctor, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.
While many people believe a stroke only happens to older adults, it’s important to know that it can happen to anyone at any time. Stroke is a medical emergency, so if you or a loved one experiences any of the warning signs, call 9-1-1 immediately to prevent or limit the amount of damage to the brain.
Remember FAST to identify the most common symptoms of stroke:
F = Face drooping
Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face 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 phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T = Time to call 9-1-1
If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away!
This Health & Wellness article is brought to you by Western Connecticut Health Network.