Stroke is currently the leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing oxygen and nutrients from reaching brain tissue. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.
Stroke are medical emergencies and urgent treatment is critical. The earlier you can begin treatment, the less risk for death and permanent brain damage. Luckily, with advancements in treatment fewer Americans die of stroke than in the past. Knowing the common signs can help you and others seek urgent medical care in the event of a stroke.
Every year, nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke. Recognizing the signs of and getting help quickly can save lives and prevent long-term disability. To help recognize the symptoms of stroke, memorize the acronym — FAST:
- F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?
- T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.
When it comes to a stroke, every second counts. If you or someone you are with is showing signs of a stroke, call 911 immediately.
Other Stroke Symptoms
While the most common indicators of a stroke include face drooping, arm weakness, and speech impairment, there are some other symptoms that show someone could be having a stroke. These include:
- Numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause
Strokes that cause no noticeable symptoms are considered silent strokes. In these types the blood flow is cut off to a part of your brain that does not control any visible functions like speaking or moving.
Silent strokes usually go undetected until an MRI or CT scan is performed for another condition and doctors discover brain damage. Since silent strokes do not show signs, this type of stroke is frequently left untreated and can result in brain damage. In addition, silent strokes can make a person more likely to have a subsequent stroke in the future.
Common risk factors for blood vessel blockages and vascular weaknesses in the brain include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and smoking. By making healthy lifestyle changes, you can reduce your stroke risk. The following are the most important steps to follow.
- Maintain a normal blood pressure
- Quit smoking
- Keep your blood sugar in a healthy range
- Seek treatment for heart disease
- Keep your cholesterol levels in a normal range
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Stay active
- Consume a healthy diet
Posterior Circulation Strokes
Posterior circulation strokes occur when a blood vessel in the back part of the brain is blocked, causing brain cells in the area to die. This type of stroke can cause several symptoms that differ from strokes affecting the front part of the brain (called anterior circulation strokes).
Symptoms can include:
- Vertigo, sensation the room is spinning
- One-sided arm or leg weakness
- Difficulty with speech
- Double vision
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Posterior circulation strokes account for approximately 20-25% of ischemic strokes.
However, the recognition and diagnosis of posterior circulation strokes is more challenging than other stroke types and they can be misdiagnosed in emergency evaluations.
A mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief interruption of blood flow to part of the brain. TIAs may cause temporary stroke-like symptoms but often resolve within 24 hours and do not cause permanent disability. However, TIAs can be warning signs of a future stroke, so it is imperative to know the symptoms and seek medical attention.
TIA symptoms are similar to those of a stroke and include:
- Feeling of numbness or weakness, usually on one side of the body
- Having trouble understanding or speaking
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Vision problems
The symptoms of TIA usually last for a few minutes but may persist up to 24 hours after the event. TIA and stroke display identical symptoms, so it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
Seek Care Immediately at the Signs of Stroke
Stroke is a medical emergency. Every minute that a stroke goes untreated, 1.9 million brain cells die. If you or a loved one begins to show signs of a stroke, it’s important to seek medical care urgently. As stroke can cause impairment, you should never drive to the emergency room. Insead, call 911 immediately. EMS personnel are equipped to start preliminary treatment and offer safe transportation to the nearest emergency department.
When calling 911, first responders can begin treatment before they reach the hospital, reducing the chances of death and disability. Not only can EMS begin treatment in an ambulance, they can also speed up treatment in the emergency room. When notified of an emergency, EMS will immediately call the nearest stroke center to pre-register the patient. Unlike standard hospitals, stroke centers are certified by the Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to ensure quality care for the unique and specialized needs of stroke patients.
When EMS calls the nearest stroke center, this activates the hospital’s stroke team so they are ready when you arrive in the emergency room. Once arriving in the hospital you will see the doctor for an exam and imaging of the brain. Depending on the severity of the blockage, your doctor may treat with clot-dissolving medications or a minimally invasive procedure to remove the blockage. The faster you can get to the hospital and begin treatment, the better the outcome.
Coast Plaza Hospital: Primary Stroke Center
On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and nearly 800,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. Recognizing the first signs and symptoms and acting FAST is crucial in successful treatment and recovery.
At Coast Plaza Hospital, our Certified Primary Stroke Center provides advanced stroke care when people most need it. With highly-skilled health care professionals and access to minimally invasive stroke care, citizens of Norwalk can count on quality, compassionate, and state-of-the-art stroke care.