A stroke occurs when your brain can’t get the blood it needs to properly function, whether because of an artery whose blood-flow is blocked or because of a leaking artery, releasing blood into neighboring brain cells. Either situation damages those brain cells. There are three main types of strokes:
- An ischemic stroke (most common) occurs when your arteries become narrowed or blocked.
- A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks or ruptures.
- And a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is a temporary (mini) stroke, that doesn’t leave any lasting symptoms, but is a warning of things to come.
Who Is Likely to Have a Stroke?
Though about 75% of recorded strokes happen to those 65 and older, age isn’t the only factor. In fact, strokes among the young are becoming increasingly common due to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. For all us, the three most significant causes of stroke are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. And, in yet another sign of how unfair life can be, non-European-based ethnicities are more likely to suffer strokes. All these facts serve as a reminder that, though therapy and rehabilitation are available after the fact, prevention is a great way to go.
But, for now, let’s look at how to recognize a stroke when we see it.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Stroke?
All too often, stroke symptoms go undetected, by the sufferer as well as those around them who don’t have the benefit of medical training. It’s that delay that may cause the sufferer the most problems.
That said, The Mayo Clinic wants you to know what a stroke looks like, having created some great guidelines which we thought we’d pass along. According to their website, here are the five most prominent signs of a possible stroke:
1. Trouble with speaking and understanding.
2. Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg.
3. Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes.
4. Headache, possibly with vomiting or disorientation.
5. Trouble walking.
To make things easier, especially in times of stress, the Mayo clinic recommends the following acronym, FAST, as an easy way to remember the above:
- Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to raise up?
- Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
- Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
Video: The Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke
What To Do If You Suspect A Stroke
Okay, so now you know how to identify a stroke. Keep in mind, though, that preventions beats cure. Working with your doctor to keep track of all aspects of your health, while maintaining a largely Mediterranean-style diet (you can eat cheesecake! Just not all the time) and getting sufficient exercise will go a long way towards not only fending off a stroke, but resulting in a life that is happier, better balanced, and more enjoyable overall.
To sum up, when it comes to a stroke – of any description — time is of the essence. The sooner you get to a medical professional, the better the chance of survival (or limiting long-term damage). And lest you be inclined, as so many of us are, to avoid the doctor, whether because we are determined to think “it was nothing” or “I don’t have time for this” or simply because we are afraid of what the doctor will say, just go! Any of the above symptoms are as serious as, well, a heart attack.
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