Believe it or not, approximately 795,000 Americans have strokes every year, with 140,000 of them resulting in death. More than half of the survivors over the age of 65 will be left with mobility issues severe enough to leave them at least partially disabled.
Immediate medical intervention is critical to anyone who has a stroke. Mere minutes can mean the difference between life, disability or death. Would you know the warning signs?
The Most Common Signs of a Stroke
Did you know that receiving treatment within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms significantly increases your odds of a full recovery? Don’t waste time determining if you or a loved one might be having a stroke. The CDC’s F.A.S.T. (face, arms, speech, time) guidelines will help you identify the three most common symptoms.
- Face: Does either side of the face droop? Do both sides the face respond when attempting to smile?
- Arms: Raise both arms. Do both hold steadily, or does one wander back down?
- Speech: Do words come easily? Are you slurring any words or having difficulty getting them out correctly?
- Time: If the answer to the above questions is “yes,” make a note of the time, if you can, and call 9-1-1. Doctors need to know how long ago the attack occurred because some treatments are only effective if given within certain time windows.
Other Important Warning Signs
While the acronym is an important tool, and may even save your life, there are other signs that you should also look out for. These symptoms are also important indicators of stroke, and also shouldn’t go ignored:
- Numbness can occur in any part of the body, but it usually strikes one side.
- Confusion or difficulty understanding simple speech can be disorienting.
- Dizziness or loss of balance can cause difficulty walking.
- Coordination loss can cause clumsiness.
- Vision problems can make it difficult to see properly.
- Headache is severe and has no other known cause.
These symptoms typically hit suddenly and unexpectedly.
A Warning About Mini-Strokes
Some people experience signs of stroke, only for them to disappear within a few minutes. This type of mini-stroke occurs when an artery becomes blocked, causing a stroke, only for blood flow to temporarily return. When symptoms subside like this, people tend to brush them off or reconsider their severity. Those who’ve had a mini-stroke are at a high risk of having a major stroke, and both require emergency treatment.
While genetics, gender and age can play a role in your risk of having a stroke, you can decrease your chances by not smoking, avoiding alcohol in excess, making healthy meal choices, and exercising regularly. Talk to your doctor immediately if you have experienced any alarming symptoms. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your odds.