How To Know If You’re Having A Stroke – Stroke Happens in the Brain—It’s FAST

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If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, there’s no time to waste. Recognizing symptoms and seeking immediate treatment can make a difference between experiencing few side effects, being severely disabled or even dying.

Strokes happen in the brain. It occurs when a clot blocks a vessel and interrupts the flow of blood (ischemic) or when a vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic). As a result, brain cells are starved of nutrients and oxygen or damaged by pooling blood.

As brain cells begin to die at a rate of about two million per minute, the window for treatment starts as soon as blood stops flowing to the brain. It is crucial to call 911 immediately if experiencing stroke symptoms.

Know the warning signs, respond quickly and decrease your risks.

What are the warning signs?

The American Stroke Association uses the acronym BE FAST for common warning signs of a stroke.

B—balance: trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance

E—eyesight: blurred or blacked out vision

F—facial drooping on one side

A—arm or leg numbness or weakness

S—slurred speech or inability to speak

T—time to call 911

If stroke symptoms subside after a few minutes, the person may have experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a “mini-stroke.” Still, treat it as a major emergency. The American Stroke Association estimates as many as 15% of people who experience a TIA will have a stroke within three months.

What to do.

Call 911 immediately. Emergency medical personnel are trained to recognize stroke and start implementing treatment protocols, which are basically the same throughout the country.

Lie down or help the person to the ground to prevent falling while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Try to maintain calm as the patient is often confused about what’s going on and may panic.

Write down information that may be critical for the emergency team—time first symptoms were noticed; any medications the person is taking; information for contacts with whom hospital personnel may want to speak.

Everyone should keep contact information, medications and other general health information handy in case of emergencies. Post it on the refrigerator.

Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the primary drug treatment for ischemic stroke, must be administered within 4.5 hours or less from the onset of symptoms. Patient outcomes for recovery and minimal damage are highest with a 60-minute, door-to-needle time—administering the clot-busting drug within 60 minutes of arriving at the hospital.

Doctors can also perform clot retrieving procedures by threading tiny catheters into the brain up to 24 hours after a stroke. It is used when tPA drugs may not be an option.

How to reduce risks.

Anyone can have a stroke at any age. Genetics play a role as risk varies with race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Black adults are nearly twice as likely to have a stroke as White adults.

Lifestyle habits also greatly increase the risks. Maintaining good cardiovascular health can reduce the likelihood of stroke as well as heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends Life’s Essential 8™ for reducing your risk:

  1. Stop smoking.
  2. Eat better—follow a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  3. Stay active—adults need 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Manage blood pressure—limit salt in your diet and alcohol consumption.
  6. Control cholesterol—eat foods low in saturated and trans fats and high in fiber.
  7. Reduce blood sugar—people with diabetes should check blood sugar levels regularly.
  8. Get healthy sleep—adults need 7 to 9 hours nightly.

Talk with your doctor about maintaining a healthier lifestyle and reducing stroke risks.

Following a stroke, rehabilitation can help patients rebuild strength and overcome many physical effects. Thibodaux Regional is a certified Primary Stroke Center and its Inpatient Rehabilitation program is an accredited Stroke Specialty Program through CARF International. For more information, call (985) 493-4731.