Having a Stroke


How do you know if you or someone you’re with is having a stroke? And what should you do?

According to mayoclinic.org, the following are the telltale signs. If at all possible, notate when the symptoms began, because their duration can guide treatment options:

  • Difficulty speaking and/or understanding. People having a stroke can slur their speech and can have difficulty understanding words.
  • They experience confusion.
  • Paralysis and/or numbness of the face, an arm or a leg. People having a stroke can develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis is the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of their body. See if they can raise both arms over their head at the same time. Ask them to smile. If one arm begins to fall, or one side of the mouth droops, they may be having a stroke.
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes. People having a stroke can have sudden blurred vision, blackened vision, or double vision.
  • Headache—sudden and severe, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness, or “altered consciousness.”
  • Difficulty walking. In addition to dizziness, a person having a stroke can stumble, lose their balance, or seem suddenly uncoordinated.

What should we do? Think FAST: Face, Arms, Speech, Time.

  • Face = ask the person to smile. Does one side of the mouth droop?
  • Arms = ask the person to raise both arms. Does one not go up, or drift back down?
  • Speech = ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or sounding strange?
  • Time = if you observe any of these, call 911 immediately!

Don’t wait to see if the symptoms go away. Every minute counts! The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability.

What Causes Strokes?

A stroke is when the blood supply to our brain is interrupted or diminished. The brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients, and that causes the brain cells to die.

A stroke can be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) like from a blood clot, or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke) like from an aneurysm. Some people have a temporary disruption of blood flow to their brain, which is called a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Sometimes folks refer to these events as “mini strokes” because the blockage is temporary and doesn’t leave lasting symptoms. But it’s still important to get medical help! It’s not possible to know if you’re having a TIA or a full blown stroke just from your symptoms. And having a TIA puts us a greater risk of having a more severe stroke in the future.

Risk factors include:

  • being overweight or obese
  • being physically inactive
  • engaging in heavy or binge drinking
  • using illicit drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines
  • having high blood pressure
  • cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • cardiovascular disease
  • family history of stroke, TIA or heart attack
  • being 55 or older
  • race—African-Americans have a higher risk of stroke than people of other races
  • gender—men are at a higher risk than women.

Strokes can cause serious disabilities like paralysis, difficulty talking or swallowing, memory loss, difficulty understanding, and reasoning, emotional problems, pain and tingling, changes in behavior and self-care.

Even if these complications are temporary, it often takes a huge effort in rehabilitation to gets one’s faculties back to full strength. It’s worth it to do what we can to take good care of ourselves and avoid having a stroke.

For inspiration, here’s a fascinating account of a brain scientist remembering what it was like to have a stroke, and what she learned from the experience:


Category : Blog &Health Posted on July 12, 2017

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