What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. About 80 percent of cases are caused by a blood clot or blockage of an artery. A stroke can also occur if the blood vessel itself is damaged. Without a good blood supply, brain cells cannot get the oxygen they need to function. If the supply is interrupted long enough, the brain cells will die.
The effects of a stroke depend on how long the interruption lasts. A mini-stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when a blood vessel is temporarily blocked. When the blood supply is restored, the symptoms disappear within minutes and may not cause much damage to the brain cells. A TIA can be a sign of a more serious stroke approaching, so it’s important to take them seriously and seek help even if the symptoms go away on their own. 4 out of 10 people who have a TIA will have a stroke.
A massive stroke can cause very serious symptoms, including long-term complications due to damage to brain cells. If you don’t get emergency care, a stroke can be fatal. The sooner you seek help, the better your chances of recovery.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can have a stroke, but some of us are more likely to have a stroke than others. It’s important to know if you’re at high risk so you know the warning signs. You may not know if your blood vessels are at risk of weakening or bursting, but other risk factors for stroke can be checked and changed regularly.
Most strokes occur when blood clots or blockages occur in blood vessels that supply the brain. Fortunately, many of the factors that increase the risk of these types of blockages are within our control, so you can take steps to reduce your risk.
In the following cases, the risk of stroke is high.
You are overweight
You drink a lot
You have high cholesterol
Your blood pressure is high
You have certain conditions, such as diabetes or atrial fibrillation
A balanced diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce many of these risks.
If you want to know your stroke risk, you should talk to your doctor or get a physical exam. Checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other factors can tell if you’re more likely to develop blood clots or blocked arteries that could cause a stroke.
How to detect warning signs?
You’ve probably heard the acronym FAST before. Here’s an easy way to remember the most common warning signs of a stroke and the importance of taking quick action.
A droopy face (if you want them to smile, it will be crooked or one-sided)
Arm weakness or numbness (if you try to raise both arms, one arm will drop below the other)
Speech difficulties, such as difficulty repeating sentences
It’s time to call an ambulance
However, there are other symptoms you should watch out for:
Sudden severe headache
Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Loss of vision or changes in vision in one or both eyes, usually sudden
You may be confused or find it difficult to understand things that come easily to you
Numbness or weakness on one side of the body (or one arm or leg).
Stroke symptoms often appear suddenly, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have time to act. Some people experience headaches, numbness, and tingling several days before a stroke. One study found that 43% of stroke patients had minor stroke symptoms in the week before the stroke.
If you notice these symptoms and seek help even if they go away, you have a better chance of a good recovery. Don’t ignore the warning signs. If you have a change in TIA, you are not overreacting. A more serious stroke can happen hours or days later, so get help right away.
Why is it important and what to do?
If you think you or someone else may be having a TIA or stroke, get immediate help. A stroke is a medical emergency, because the sooner you get treatment, the better. Call 911 immediately and tell them you suspect a stroke. Remember that if the symptoms disappear, you should go to the hospital, because it may be a small stroke.
The treatment you receive depends on the type of stroke, the part of the brain affected, and how severe your symptoms are. The first thing to do is to restore blood supply to the brain. Blood clots can be dissolved with medication, but sometimes surgery is needed. The sooner this treatment is done, the better the results.
After the immediate danger is treated, you may need long-term treatment to prevent more strokes and help you recover. You may need medication to prevent blood clots or lower your blood pressure. Sometimes surgery is recommended to improve blood flow to the brain. You may need extra support to manage long-term effects, such as speech or movement problems. The sooner you get help, the easier it will be to treat you and the less likely you will experience long-term effects.
Are you now better prepared for such an emergency? And can you remember what FAST is without looking back?