Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the US, and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. However, most of the population do not know the warning signs of a stroke.
Both men and women can suffer from a stroke, but warning signs may differ by gender. Strokes have historically been shown to be more fatal for women although more men tend to experience them at a younger age.
Why do I need to know the early warning signs of stroke?
Have you ever wondered what it may look or feel like when a person is having a stroke? A stroke can happen to anyone at any time; it will not stop to think about whether you are in the middle of working, grocery shopping, or driving. Knowing what to look for can mean the difference between life and death, or the difference between saving and losing vital brain cells that help you function. That is why it is so important to recognize the signs and act quickly.
It is very important to receive medical attention as soon as you exhibit any of these warning signs as each second is crucial for survival. A stroke is a severe medical emergency and if a person does not receive medical attention right away they are at greater risk for permanent brain damage or death.
If a stroke is treated quickly, doctors are able to administer Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), a medication that helps dissolve blood clots. tPA can help decrease the amount of damage done after sustaining a stroke, but can only be administered within 3 hours of showing warning signs. Therefore it is very important to get help as quickly as you can in order to allow for the most successful recovery!
The more familiar you are with the warning signs, the sooner you can get help and the sooner you get help, the higher the chances are of survival.
Early warning signs of stroke
One of the easiest ways to remember the signs and symptoms of a stroke is to think: BE FAST.
PRINT OUT THE PICTURE BELOW AND KEEP IT IN A VISIBLE SPACE
B - Balance
E - Eyes
F - Face
A - Arm
S - Speech
T - Time
Now let’s break these down one by one to help each one stand out in your mind.
- Balance Loss
This refers to new unsteadiness or difficulty staying upright and in control of your body’s position. Some people may experience dizziness that makes them feel “weird” like they can’t quite stand up or sit up correctly. Some feel as though they can’t quite get solid footing, or that their bodies aren’t reacting quickly enough with a change in position or movement. Sometimes muscles just can’t quite coordinate or work right while standing, sitting, or walking.
This symptom may feel like someone is sweeping the rug out from beneath you, or that you are stepping off of a boat and can’t find equilibrium quickly enough. Often, people feel the need to grasp at other objects, lean against something, or sit down to help with the feeling of falling. It is easy to pass these strange feelings off with thoughts like, “I’m just tired from things happening in my life, so this must be my body’s response,” or “maybe I didn’t drink enough water or eat enough breakfast.” DON’T ignore your body when it doesn’t feel right! A change in balance could mean a stroke - call 9-1-1.
- Eyesight Changes
If you suddenly have changes in your vision, this may be a sign to take action by getting yourself checked out right away. This symptom is not referring to the gradual changes that take place as we age, rather sudden changes that have no obvious explanation. A change in vision or a change in one or both eyes can mean different things for each person. You may experience sudden blurriness, double vision, difficulty reading, or confusion with written words. This symptom may be more of a dizziness-related feeling, with the world spinning around you. When in doubt, check it out!
- Face Drooping
Sometimes when a person is experiencing the start of a stroke, his or her face may become asymmetrical or uneven. Often, one side of the face will become numb, tingly, or “droopy.” A quick and effective way to check for this is to try to smile a big smile while looking in the mirror (or if you suspect someone else is experiencing a stroke, ask that person to smile while you observe). If the smile is noticeably uneven from one side to the other, get help. Another quick check is to try to shut both eyes as tightly as you can and have someone check to see if one eye is not closing as firmly as the other. Remember, some faces are a bit asymmetrical to start with - this symptom refers to something that is brand new for that person.
- Arm Weakness
Sudden weakness, numbness, tingling, or even paralysis of a body part is one sign that a stroke may be happening. This is often most noticeable on one side of the body (for example, the right arm and leg). A quick check for this is raising both arms at the same time; if one arm drops down or can’t be moved to the same height as the other, get checked out quickly. Remember that each person experiences a stroke differently: while one person may have weakness or a “strange” feeling in her left arm and leg, another may have more obvious paralysis, and only in his right arm. If something is different or doesn’t feel right, get it checked by a doctor right away.
- Speech Difficulty
When a person suddenly has trouble talking or understanding a conversation, it can indicate the beginning of a stroke. This symptom can also vary from person to person and may look or sound like confusion, slurred speech, using incorrect words in a sentence, being hard to understand while having a conversation, or not being able to speak at all. A quick check for this is to ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. If he or she can’t repeat 5-6 words clearly, correctly, or in the right order, get help.
- Time to Call 911!
The most important part about recognizing the signs and symptoms of a stroke is knowing that “time is the brain.” The faster a person receives medical help, the faster he or she can be evaluated and treated. Even if the signs or symptoms that were noticed seem to be going away, call 9-1-1 and get help right away. Once a stroke starts, a part of the brain is being starved of oxygen and brain cells are starting to die. The longer this lasts, the longer that part of the brain is being injured, and the greater the effects to the rest of the body as a result.
Recurrence of stroke and prevention
If you think you are having a stroke, or that someone near you is having a stroke, first call 9-1-1 immediately. Tell the operator that you are thinking stroke, and let the emergency personnel handle the rest. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital, because there’s no way to tell what other symptoms you may experience on the way or how safe you will be. If you are helping someone else who may be having a stroke, make sure the person is safe, (lying down on the floor to prevent falling!) that you are nearby watching for new symptoms, and that the paramedics can get to you easily. Strokes are scary, but knowing when one may be happening and what to do about it is powerful and important for saving a life.
Having a stroke puts you at further risk for future strokes. It's important to be aware of the early warning signs and to take active steps to prevent future strokes.
STROKE PREVENTION STRATEGIES
- STOP SMOKING
- TAKE YOUR MEDICATION AS DIRECTED BY YOUR PHYSICIAN
- STAY ACTIVE!
- EAT FOODS WITH LOW CHOLESTEROL, TRANS, AND SATURATED FATS
- DRINK ALCOHOL IN MODERATION
Check out more information about how to prevent stroke on preventing another stroke.
- Further Reading: 5 symptoms of a left side stroke of the brain
If you have had a stroke and are looking for an effective solution for your rehabilitation needs, please look into Neofect's line of Smart Rehabilitation Solutions.
To learn more, please call (888) 623-8984 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the NEOFECT website is solely at your own risk.
- Duke Health
- American Stroke Association
- Mayo Clinic
- Benjamin, E. J. et al. (2019) Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2019 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation
- Focht, K. L., Gogue, A. M., White, B. M., & Ellis, C. (2014). Gender differences in stroke recognition among stroke survivors. The Journal of Neuroscience Nursing : Journal of the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses, 46(1), 18-22; quiz 22, E1-2. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/JNN.0000000000000026
- Think FAST to recall the warning signs of a stroke. (2014, 04). Harvard Health Publications.Harvard Heart Letter, Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/think-fast-to-recall-the-warning-signs-of-a-stroke
- June LeeClinical Manager / Physical Therapist