National Stroke Awareness Month

Spotting the early symptoms of a stroke is vital to survival and recovery. Do you know what to look for?

It can be easy to mistake stroke symptoms for other common ailments. Arm weakness might be mistaken for a muscle tweak. A headache, dizziness, or weakness might be mistaken for simply being tired. Failure to react to the warning signs of a stroke can lead to a more severe outcome. This is one of the reasons why stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability.

Per the CDC, a stroke can happen in one of two ways: Ischemic or Hemorrhagic.  An Ischemic stroke is when the blood supply to the brain is blocked and a Hemorrhagic stroke when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.  Either of these events causes brain tissue to die, which can lead to brain damage, disability, and death.

How do you know if you are at risk for a stroke?

Strokes can happen to anyone at any age. There are numerous factors that can increase your risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Other risks include smoking and too much alcohol consumption. Per the CDC, approximately 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke annually.

What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

The key to achieving the best possible outcome for a person having a stroke is to know the signs and BE FAST.

B – Balance – Does the person have trouble walking, is feeling dizzy, or experiencing loss of coordination or balance?
E – Eyes/Vision – Is the person experiencing trouble seeing in one or both eyes?
F – Facial Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or does it feel numb?  Ask the person to smile – is the smile uneven?
A – Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or feel numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Do you see a downward drift of their arms?
S – Speech – Does the person’s speech sound normal? Is there any slurring of their words or incomprehensible words/sounds when they try to speak?
T – Time – It is TIME to call 911- Don’t Delay! Make a note of when the symptoms started. What time was that person last “normal”?

Other signs and symptoms of a stroke:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or leg, especially on one side more than the other can be signs of stroke.
  • Confusion – The person may have problems speaking or have difficulty understanding speech. 
  • Trouble Seeing – There may be problems with the person’s vision, including blurred vision, inability to see peripherally on one side, difficulty reading or not being able to see letters or words.
  • Trouble Walking – Dizziness, and loss of coordination or balance can be signs of a stroke.
  • Severe Headache – Sudden onset of a severe “thunderclap” headache of unknown cause is another sign of a stroke.

Most of the symptoms for stroke are the same for men and women; however, women sometimes experience generalized weakness, disorientation, confusion or memory loss, fatigue, nausea, or vomiting.  

What are the risk factors for a stroke?

You can’t control some risk factors for stroke. So it’s important you know them. These are the most common risk factors for stroke:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar)
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking/chewing tobacco/vaping
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Heart Disease
  • Poor diet that includes processed foods or foods high in trans-fat, saturated fat

You can reduce your risk for stroke by making healthy choices, from not smoking to eating nutritious foods and engaging in an active lifestyle. Talk with your primary care provider to learn more.

How is a stroke diagnosed and treated?

Your primary care doctor can perform several different diagnostic tests, which include, computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  If you have had a stroke you may receive emergency care, treatment to help prevent another stroke, and rehabilitation to help regain any skills you may have lost.

Your health is serious. Schedule an appointment today!

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