How to recognize the signs of a stroke

brain having a strokeA stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happens, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs almost instantaneously.

Brain cells die off during a stroke. Because of this, the abilities controlled by that particular area of the brain could be lost. These can include speech, movement, and memory. How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.

For example, someone who has a small stroke may experience only minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg. People who have larger strokes may be paralyzed on one side or lose their ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of disability. That is why it is incredibly important for all of us to be able to recognize the signs that someone is having a stroke so that we can act quickly in order to save not just their life itself, but their future quality of life.

How do you know it’s a stroke? Use the F.A.S.T. Test:

F= Face Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop, like they have
Just been given Novocain at the dentist?
A= Arms Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downwards?
S= Speech Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred,
Strange, or are they using the wrong words and seem frustrated?
T= Time If you see ANY of these signs, it’s best to call 911 ASAP.

Stroke symptoms include:
SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

As soon as you recognize that the person needs help and may be having a stroke call 911 immediately. Do not hesitate or think you may be able to help them yourself. Every second counts. Brain cells are lost at a rate of 2 million cells every minute during a stroke increasing the risk of the damage being permanent.
Leading risk factors for stroke: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, diabetes and carotid artery disease.

Lifestyle risks: Smoking, being overweight, excess alcohol consumption, lack of exercise.

What does it feel like to have a stroke?

While I thankfully have not personally had one, I have been there while much younger; at age 6 my mother, then only 41 experienced a mild stroke. I clearly remember her calling me for help. She seemed upset and panicked. She knew something was wrong, but not what. She kept trying to tell me to please call the ambulance, as this was prior to the days of 911. But her words were not coming out right no matter how hard she tried. What I remember her telling me was “Call the pumpkin, need harp.”

She knew it didn’t sound right. I could tell by the look on her face. She tried to write it down. She was unable to write any more correctly than she was able to speak. It was confusing and terrifying. Thankfully I was a smart kid. And even more, thankfully she was a smart mother. By our rotary dial telephone was a list of emergency numbers and I called the ambulance thankfully in time. There was no permanent damage done.

It is a very scary thing to go through as the stroke victim, but also as the person who happens to be there and is now suddenly thrown into the position of responsibility for the other person’s life.
It is important to note the time when symptoms first start. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA-approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long-term disability for stroke.

If there is ANY doubt, it is always better to be safe, than sorry.