Are you able to identify the symptoms of a stroke in a case you are experiencing one? It is considered that stroke is the second cause of disability worldwide. Each year, 15 million people around the world experience strokes. One-third of these people die, while another third becomes permanently disabled. Only in the United States, stroke takes the fifth place on the list of leading causes of death. Regardless of the age, every person can experience stroke. However, it is much more common in people over the age of 60.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is shut down. Without oxygen, brain cells quickly die. The individual who suffers from a stroke may lose abilities or memories that are in the parts of the brain that are affected.
There are two types of stroke:
Hemorrhagic — This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks or a brain aneurysm bursts and blood flows into or around the brain, thus causing pressure.
- Intracerebral hemorrhage is the situation when the damaged vessel leaks blood directly into brain tissue which in turn kills brain cells.
Sometimes, the hemorrhage can occur because of a genetic malformation of the arteries and veins in the central nervous system. If you diagnose this condition on time, you can get the right treatment and prevent stroke.
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage usually occurs when there is a bleeding in the area between the brain and the surrounding tissues.
In most cases, this is caused by a burst aneurysm. However, it can occur as a result of using blood-thinning medication or head injury.
Ischemic – This type is usually caused by a blockage or blood clot in a blood vessel, shutting down blood supply to the brain. This type of stroke is the most common.
- An embolic stroke is when a blood clot form and arterial plaque break off anywhere in the circulatory system. If this goes to the brain and reaches a blood vessel which is very small for it to pass through, it usually gets stuck there.
- A thrombotic stroke is when a blood clot forms inside one of the arteries that supply blood to the brain, thus causing a blockage.
- A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is also known as a “mini-stroke”. It temporarily blocks the supply of blood to the brain and causes no serious damage.
If you think you may have experienced a TIA, you should immediately see a healthcare provider because it is usually a precursor to an ischemic stroke.
What Contributes to Risk of Stroke?
The person can have a stroke with experiencing warning signs before. These are the main risk factors for stroke:
- Alcohol and other substance abuse, e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine
- Atherosclerosis or other cardiovascular diseases.
- Chronically high cholesterol
- Long-term use of some medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), including ibuprofen and naproxen
- Poor diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Sickle cell disease
- Smoking cigarettes
- Stress and depression
- Age and sex – As we age, the risk of stroke increases. In people under the age of 60, men have increased risk compared to women to experience a stroke. However, women have an increased risk to die as a result.
- Race/ethnicity – in North America, African- and Native Americans have an increased risk of experiencing strokes compared to other ethnic groups
12 Symptoms of a Stroke
The symptoms of stroke usually depend on the area of the brain that is affected by the shutdown of brain supply.
In order to prevent serious damage and a life of disability, it is very important to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and know their meaning so you can seek a medical attention quick enough.
1. Pain on One Side of the Face
Unexpected and unexplainable pain on the side of the arm, face, leg, or chest is not typical but it is not uncommon. Women have a higher risk to experience atypical stroke symptoms.
2. Blurry Vision
Inability to see clearly, blurred or double vision, inability to focus your eye(s), or some other changes (in one or both eyes) can be a sign of stroke.
3. Difficulty Breathing or Swallowing
In most cases, women experience different symptoms of a stroke compared to men. Some of these different symptoms include having difficulty swallowing or breathing, sudden pain, seizures, hiccups, fainting, irritation, nausea or vomiting, and hallucination.
Even though hand tremors are not that common symptom, it is confirmed that it is a symptom of cerebral infarction (obstruction of blood supply to the brain).
5. Loss of Balance
Loss of balance, lack of coordination, and sudden dizziness can indicate a stroke, and you should take them seriously!
6. Difficult to Walk
Instability and trouble with normal walking, and sudden tingling or numbness anywhere in the body can indicate a stroke.
7. Facial Paralysis
This is definitely the best-known sign of stroke. Sudden weakness/paralysis/numbness of one side of the arm, leg, or face can indicate a stroke.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should raise both arms over your head at the same time. If one arm starts to fall, a stroke is in progress. Also, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
This headache is not like a normal headache or a migraine. This is a sudden, monstrous, and sharp pain in the head, particularly in younger people, and it usually indicated a stroke.
Women have an increased risk to experience a stroke headache compared to men, particularly women who constantly suffer from migraines.
This is another sign of stroke. If you are in the middle of doing something and suddenly you become disoriented, confused, or unable to think straight and understand.
Dizziness or imbalance alone, do not necessarily indicate a stroke. However, dizziness and imbalance accompanied by vertigo indicate a brainstem stroke. The prognosis for brain stem stroke is very good.
There is a chance for recovery from a brain stem stroke because brain stem strokes do not affect language ability, so the individual can participate more effectively in rehabilitation therapy.
According to the American Stroke Association, double vision and vertigo often resolve after a few weeks of recovery in mild to moderate brain stem strokes.
11. Trouble Speaking
The part of the brain responsible for speech is usually affected by stroke. When having a stroke, you will experience an inability to speak, slurred speech, or inability to understand speech.
During a stroke, women have a higher risk to experience sudden extreme weakness, fatigue, confusion, and changes in mental state.
More than 80% of strokes can be prevented. In order to reduce your risk of stroke, make sure to follow these lifestyle choices:
- Keep your blood pressure regulated. It is very important to keep your blood pressure less than 120/80.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Your Body Mass Index should be 25 or less.
- Exercise regularly. It is recommended to exercise 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. You should drink no more than one glass a day.
- Keep your blood sugar levels regulated, especially if you are diabetic. People with diabetes are more likely to experience stroke.
- Stop smoking cigarettes.
FAST for Stroke
To prevent permanent damage or death, you should immediately seek for medical attention (within 1 hour) when experiencing the symptoms of a stroke.
You can use some medications that have the ability to quickly dissolve blood clots, thus remove the obstruction and get the blood flowing again to the brain.
Having proper treatment within 3 hours of experiencing symptoms of a stroke is related to a 30% greater chance of not experiencing serious harm.
The medical experts use the mnemonic acronym “FAST” in order to increase the awareness of the symptoms and to teach us what we should do if someone we know is experiencing a stroke. If someone you know is experiencing a stroke, the first thing you should do is call for an ambulance immediately!
Here’s what you need to know:
- F (Face): Ask the individual to smile. As we said before, you should look for signs of facial paralysis and drooping on one side of the face.
- A (Arms): Ask the individual to raise both arms. Look if one arm starts to fall.
- S (Speech): Ask the individual to repeat some phrase without slurring. For instance, the person could say, “The early bird catches the worm.”
- T (Time): Time is precious! If you or someone you know is experiencing a stroke, call an ambulance immediately!