Stroke happens when there is an interruption of blood supply to the brain. It is also an issue that is close to my heart. My father and hero, Dr. Uma Nandi, was a wonderful man – a brilliant polymer chemist, cook, singer, husband, father and grandfather. He was a true renaissance man. Ten years ago, he suffered a devastating stroke that changed his life and shook our entire family. I’ve made it my mission to educate our planet about strokes. Recognizing the signs of a stroke is crucial in order to get medical help and appropriate treatment as soon as possible. Let’s discuss stroke and its major symptoms.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke is a medical emergency – a “brain attack” that can happen to anyone at any time. Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, and every four minutes, someone dies from it! Each year, about 800,000 people experience a stroke. Some people experience recurrent strokes. It is the fifth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the U.S. A stroke happens when the blood flow to the brain is cut off, which deprives the brain cells of necessary oxygen and causes them to rapidly die. Different parts of your brain control different abilities. A stroke may affect memory and muscle control, but how one is affected greatly depends on where the attack occurred, how much damage it caused and the treatment received. Some people end up with only minor issues, such as temporary muscle weakness, whereas others may become paralyzed on one side, lose ability to speak, develop emotional problems, experience behavioral changes, pain or numbness. Recovery depends on the individual, as well. About two-thirds of stroke survivors end up with some form of a lifelong disability, while others completely recover.
Types of Stroke
- Ischemic Stroke: This accounts for almost 80 percent of all strokes and is caused by an artery clot or other blockage of blood flow to the brain.
- Intracerebral Hemorrhage: This happens if there is a sudden rupture of an artery in the brain.
- Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: This is also caused by a sudden rupture of an artery in the area between the brain and the tissues that cover the brain.
- A transient ischemic attack: (TIA) is not a type of stroke, but an event that mimics stroke-like symptoms. It happens when the brain stops for a short period of time. It may only last for a few minutes. A TIA may be a sign that a major stroke is coming. Even for a TIA, you still need to seek immediate medical help. Since strokes are life-threatening and can happen to anyone at any time, it is essential to know the symptoms and how to get life-saving medical help and proper treatment as soon as possible.
13 Symptoms of Stroke You Need to Know
- Sudden numbness or paralysis; most often in the face, or an arm or leg on one side of the body; one arm may fall or your smile becomes a droopy, half-smile
- Trouble speaking; slurring words and confusion
- Trouble understanding; confusion and difficulty understanding speech
- A sudden, severe headache without a reason; may be accom-panied by vomiting, dizziness and altered consciousness
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes; blurred or blackened vision or seeing double
- Trouble walking; loss of balance or coordination or sudden dizziness
Less frequent symptoms that appear more in women:
- Sudden nausea or vomiting without a reason
- Sudden hiccups
- Brief loss of consciousness or fainting
- Sudden face pain
- Sudden limb pain
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Sudden chest pain
If you notice someone having symptoms, use the “FAST” mnemonic:
- Face: Ask the person to smile and check for drooping on one side of the face.
- Arms: Ask them to raise both arms and check if one drifts downward.
- Speech: Ask them to say a simple sentence and check for slurred speech, garbled words
- Time: If you notice any, even minor signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately.
Stroke Or Something Else? How to Tell The Difference
As you see, stroke has various symptoms. Some may be similar to other conditions, such as MS, seizures or even migraines. A stroke is a serious, life-threatening condition. Don’t wait and don’t try to figure it out yourself. If it’s a stroke, immediate help is crucial. Your doctor can determine whether or not you are having a stroke through examination, testing and imaging such as CT scans and MRI.
What to Do If Someone Is Having a Stroke
- Call 911 immediately! Do not hesitate or wait to see if symptoms go away. The sooner the help comes, the higher the chances of survival and recovery. Do not drive yourself, or anyone who may be having a stroke. An ambulance is much faster and the EMS staff is trained to provide appropriate treatment until you reach the ER.
- Even if symptoms disappear, call 911. You may be having a TIA, which only lasts for a few minutes but is a warning sign of a possible major stroke.
- Tell paramedics when the symptoms appeared to help them determine what drugs they can use.
Risk factors for stroke include lifestyle, medical and other factors, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Heavy and/or binge drinking
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Heart disease
- A family history of a stroke or heart attack
- Age over 55
- Being African-American
- Being male
- Using hormonal birth control or hormone therapies
How to Prevent Stroke
Through certain lifestyle changes, you can prevent having a stroke. If you’ve had a stroke in the past, your doctor may prescribe medication. Ways to prevent stroke:
- Control blood pressure
- Eat a diet rich in greens, vegetables and fruits
- Limit cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet
- Manage stress
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Control diabetes
- Stop smoking
- Avoid illegal drugs
- Drink moderately or avoid alcohol completely
- Treat obstructive sleep apnea
- If you’ve had a stroke, take preventative medications such as anti-platelet drugs and anticoagulants
A stroke is a serious issue and a medical emergency. Thankfully, there are excellent treatment options and prevention methods. Understanding what a stroke is, knowing the warning signs and what to do are all crucial to winning the battle with stroke.