A stroke occurs when there’s a blockage of blood flow to the brain causing brain damage. During a stroke, there is a shortage of blood supply which causes surrounding brain cells to be cut off.
Nerve cells within the brain tissue become harmed as well.
Strokes are considered medical emergencies and require immediate medical care. Every minute counts when it comes to detecting the signs of a stroke. Early stroke treatment can reduce long-term side effects, brain damage, and complications.
Knowing the signs of a stroke can help you act fast as the caregiver:
Slurred speech or confusion
Sudden paralysis or weakness in the face, arms, or legs on one side of the body
Blurred vision, double vision, or blindness in one or both eyes
Sudden, severe headache, possibly with vomiting and dizziness
Losing balance or stumbling, with or without sudden dizziness
The acronym FAST may help you remember the signs of a stroke:
Face - look for face drooping, also known as one side of the face droop
Arms - ask them to raise both arms, and if arm weakness occurs, that may be a sign of a stroke
Speech - notice if their speech sounds slurred or confused
Time - the sooner you call 911 for emergency help, the better
If you notice these symptoms of a stroke, get medical help immediately.
According to the CDC, in most cases, stroke survivors who reach the ER within 3 hours of initial symptoms have less disability in the months afterward.
While stroke symptoms may vary slightly depending on the type of stroke, all stroke symptoms should be taken seriously. The three types of stroke include ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, and transient ischemic stroke.
A stroke can occur in anyone at any age. However, understanding the risk factors will help you assess the likelihood of your loved one suffering a stroke. Knowing the stroke risk factors can help encourage your loved one to make lifestyle changes for stroke prevention.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, which forces the heart to work harder and damages blood vessels and organs.
The primary cause of death for stroke survivors is heart disease, and heart disease prevention can also prevent stroke, as the two conditions share many risk factors.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, they are at greater risk of stroke. High glucose levels over time damage the blood vessels, resulting in a higher risk of stroke.
The risk for an ischemic stroke is double for smokers, and smoking also increases the risk of heart disease, another risk factor for stroke.
High cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis, the thickening of the arteries caused by a buildup of fatty deposits. This plaque buildup decreases normal blood flow to the brain and can result in a stroke. Regular blood tests are used to detect and monitor high cholesterol levels.
Weight loss and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of stroke. Excess weight can contribute to inflammation in the body, decreasing blood flow. Obesity, coupled with a lack of exercise, increases the risk of stroke.
Speak to your loved one’s health care provider to understand helpful lifestyle changes that you can implement for your loved one.
Research shows a correlation between having a family history of an aneurysm and greater risk factors for hemorrhagic stroke. A CT scan can detect whether your loved one has a brain aneurysm.
Drinking too much alcohol can result in high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke. Intravenous drug use can lead to blood clots, while cocaine and other drugs increase the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, increasing the risk of stroke.
After the age of 55, the risk for stroke begins to increase. Men are more likely to suffer a stroke at younger ages, and women who take oral birth control or hormone replacement therapy have a greater risk of stroke.
In the United States, stroke is more common in African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Hispanic adults, according to the NIH.
The risk of stroke is higher after your loved one has already suffered a stroke. If they have had one or more TIA, sometimes called "mini-stroke," they are at 10 times higher risk for stroke.
If there is a family history of stroke, the risk of stroke increases.
A stroke occurs when blood flow is impeded from reaching areas of the brain, depending on what part of the body that part of the brain controls, different effects will be seen in the stroke survivor. Both common and uncommon effects correlate with the part of the brain that was damaged due to the stroke.
Some of the more common effects of stroke are:
Paralysis on one side of the body
Memory loss or confusion
Anxiety and depression
Pseudobulbar affect (uncontrollable laughing or crying)
Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
Pain and heightened sensitivity
Problems with vision
Spasticity (muscles tightened)
Loss of balance
Foot drop, claw toe, or hammertoe
Other effects may occur depending on the area of the brain where the stroke caused damage.
If your loved one happens to suffer a stroke on the left hemisphere of their brain, they may encounter speech difficulty.
Stroke care or rehabilitation specialists may be able to help your loved one regain independence around their stroke-related conditions such as trouble communicating, trouble seeing, and trouble walking. Stroke recovery can be challenging for loved ones and their caregivers.
According to the American Heart Association, on average in 2019, someone in the United States has died of a stroke every 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Knowing the known causes and warning signs of stroke can help you better prepare for the possibility that your loved one does suffer from a stroke.
To be safe, you can take your loved one to the emergency room if your loved one shows signs of a stroke.
DISCLAIMER: ALL INFORMATION AND MATERIALS ON THIS WEBSITE ARE INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.
The information on this website, including text, graphics, images, and other materials, is intended for informational purposes only. No material on this webpage or any other page on this website is meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For questions regarding medical conditions or the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional or physician. Do not delay seeking nor disregard professional medical advice because of the information on this website.
Robert C. Fisher is a Nurse Director at a large medical center in Boston, MA, who holds a Master’s in Nursing Leadership and Administration and an MBA in Healthcare Management.
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