Strokes: How to Recognize Them, and What to Do
–Philip J Reed, on behalf of Valley Hospital Medical Center
Strokes are serious, and their impact is very real. Approximately 700,000 Americans experience a stroke first-hand every year. Some die from that stroke, but, of course, others live and recover. According to the American Stroke Association, strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., taking a life every 3.1 minutes.
That’s a significant frequency, and that’s why it’s important that people are educated. The faster (and more correctly) that a stroke is recognized and responded to, the more likely the victim will recover.
That’s why we are providing this article today. We want you to understand, to be prepared, and to have the most effective preventative agent on your side: knowledge.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when there is an interruption in the flow of blood to the cells in the brain. Without the oxygen supplied by the blood, those brain cells die.
There are two kinds of strokes, determined by the reason blood flow to the brain was interrupted. The first type is an ischemic stroke, which is the most common. Ischemic strokes are caused by arterial blockage, which restricts blood blow to the brain. Ischemic stokes account for approximately 80% of all strokes annually.
The less common type is a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs due to the rupture of an artery, either outside the brain or at the base of the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for approximately 20% of strokes.
Symptoms of a Stroke
Stroke symptoms are unfortunately categorized by the suddenness of their onset and their severity. These symptoms generally do not build gradually, and may occur in quick succession.
Symptoms of a stroke may include:
• Severe dizziness
• Difficulty understanding others
• Difficulty speaking
• Loss of coordination or balance
• Severe weakness or numbness in arms or legs (one or both sides)
• Numbness in the face
• Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
• Severe headache of unknown cause
• Difficulty breathing or swallowing
• Uneven pupil dilation
Somebody suffering from a stroke is likely to display one or more of the signs of a stroke, but even one symptom may be indication enough. Be sure to take any warning signs seriously.
Identifying a Stroke in Others
FACE – Does their face slack or droop on one side, making it look off-balance?
ARMS – Do they have difficulty holding or raising their arms together, straight in front of them?
SPEECH – Is the person’s speech unrecognizable or severely slurred?
TIME – How much time had passed since you noticed the symptoms? Be sure to tell medical personnel.
What to Do
Call 9-1-1 immediately, and don’t leave the person. You should not try to take the person to the hospital yourself. Help the person sit down so they will not fall if they lose consciousness. If the person’s condition worsens while you are on the phone with emergency personnel, they will be able to talk you through the process of helping the victim until paramedics arrive.
Noting the time of the onset of stroke symptoms is essential. The longer the blood is prevented from flowing to the brain, the more damage can occur to the brain. Receiving adequate treatment within an hour of the onset of stroke can prevent disability in most cases. The sooner the stroke victim can receive treatment, the better the chances of recovery.
Strokes are frightening, both for the person having the stroke and the bystanders who notice it. But, with FAST thinking and quick treatment at a primary stroke center, people who suffer from a stroke have a chance to make a full recovery.