Strokes - Very Serious Business
Did you know that stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States? It affects about 800,000 people each year. That’s a staggering statistic! It also causes more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease.
However, educating yourself with the signs of a stroke and responding accordingly can save a life or reduce the chance of developing a major disability.
So, first let’s look at the F.A.S.T. signs of a stroke:
- F = facial drooping. If the face droops to one side, ask the person to smile - pay close attention to the response.
- A = arm numbness or weakness. Can the person lift both arms? Is one being noticeably weaker?
- S = speech. Problems being coherent, the inability to speak and slurring words are all indications of stroke. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
- T = time. If you see any of the above signs, it’s time to call 911. Don’t hesitate - don’t wait.
There are some additional signs to be on the lookout for. Loss of balance, trouble walking, vision issues, a severe headache, weakness or numbness of the limbs or face, and confusion or problems understanding should all be taken seriously.
But what is a stroke? Strokes occur when blood flow to an area of the brain is interrupted or cut off. This prevents the brain cells from getting oxygen and they begin to die. When brain cells die, some abilities controlled by that area are lost.
The five main types of stroke are:
- Ischemic (clots) - this type accounts for about 87% of all strokes and happens when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is blocked.
- Cryptogenic - this one is a mystery. Despite testing, a cause cannot be determined.
- Brain stem - this one is very difficult to diagnose. Severe brain stem strokes can cause a locked-in syndrome where the patient can’t speak or move below the neck.
- Hemorrhagic (bleeds) - this one is caused by a weakened blood vessel in the brain that ruptures. Hemorrhagic bleeds are often caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure.
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA) - this is also known as a “mini-stroke” and is caused by a temporary blood clot. This is a very serious condition and should not be ignored!
One-quarter of stroke survivors are left with a minor disability while 40% have moderate-to-severe disabilities.
If you suspect a stoke you should call 911 immediately! The sooner treatment is started, the better the chances of a positive outcome.