Having a stroke is serious business. It can leave you injured, paralyzed, and in severe cases, the unthinkable can happen: death.
Thankfully, strokes are becoming less and less common…
Fewer Americans die of strokes each year thanks to new medical developments and healthier lifestyle choices.
As a matter of fact, the latest treatments help to prevent long-term disabilities from a stroke.
In this article, we discuss the signs and symptoms of having a stroke as well as how to prevent it.
What is it?
A stroke is an interruption or reduction of blood supply to the brain.
Within minutes, brain cells begin to die as they stop receiving sufficient oxygen and nutrients.
If not treated quickly, a stroke can lead to permanent brain damage.
Signs & Symptoms
Stroke treatments are more effective when they happen as soon as possible. (1)
Pay close attention to any of the following stroke symptoms:
1. Difficulty Communicating
One of the first symptoms is usually that people find it hard to speak and to understand what others are saying.
People may slur their words or seem confused at this stage.
2. Numbness, Weakness & Paralysis
People experiencing a stroke will often feel numbness, weakness, or even paralysis in the legs, arm, and face.
More often than not, a tell-tale sign is also that paralysis only affects one side of the body.
Ask them two raise both arms or squeeze both of your hands. If one side doesn’t work, there’s a good chance that a stroke may be the culprit.
3. Problems with Vision
Some people experience problems with vision.
Once again, it tends to affect one side more than the other.
One eye may be blurred, blackened, or seeing double.
A sudden, splitting headache is another common stroke symptom.
Many people also throw up, feel dizzy, and just don’t seem like themselves as a result of the severe headache.
5. Difficulties Walking
Loss of coordination is also another sign of a stroke.
People experiencing a stroke often seem clumsy as they stumble or lose balance while walking.
Take Action and Think FAST
If you notice any of the above symptoms, even if they appear and disappear quickly, seek medical attention immediately.
You’ll have to think FAST! (2)
FAST is the acronym used to summarize how to save a stroke patient.
Face: Does one side of the person’s face droop as they try to smile?
Arms: Ask the person to raise both of their arms. Does he or she struggle to keep both arms up?
Speech: Can the person answer a simple question or repeat a simple phrase? Also, check if their speech is slurred or sounds strange.
Time: Time is of the essence here, which is why you should call 911 and seek medical help right away!
There are two main causes of a stroke: either burst arteries or blocked arteries.
The first type of stroke is caused by a leaking or bursting blood vessel, also known as a hemorrhagic stroke.
Common risk factors of a hemorrhagic stroke are:
Extremely high blood pressure
Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy, a condition where protein deposits cause the blood vessel walls to weaken
Anticoagulants, especially when you have been over-using them
Aneurysms, which are weak spots in your blood vessel walls
Strokes can also be caused by a blocked artery, known as an ischemic stroke.
This is the most common type of stroke and occurs when your brain is receiving too little oxygen due to the blockage. (3)
Poor diet is the most common risk factor, as fatty deposits from unhealthy food build up in the arteries over time.
What is a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)?
A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is often referred to as a mini-stroke. (4)
During a TIA, people experience symptoms that are very similar to an actual stroke.
The good news is that a TIA does not cause permanent damage, as it only temporarily decreases blood supply to the brain for 5 minutes or less.
Similar to an ischemic stroke, TIAs are caused by a blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels.
If you think someone might be experiencing a TIA, call 911 immediately.
It’s better to let a trained medical professional decide how to provide treatment.
Having a TIA greatly increases the risk of you having a full-blown stroke later in life.
There are many different factors that increase the risk of stroke and experiencing long-lasting side effects. (5)
Here are some of the biggest ones:
Using illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine or cocaine
Being obese or highly overweight
Heavy drinking habits
Low physical activity
A family history of strokes, heart attacks, and TIAs
High blood pressure
Heart diseases, such as atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and heart defects
People above the age of 55 have a much higher risk of experiencing a stroke
Research shows that African Americans have a higher risk of stroke compared to other races. (6)
Men are much more likely to have a stroke than women
Hormone therapies like birth control pills
Depending on how long the brain has to go on without sufficient oxygen, there may be severe complications, including:
1. Loss of Muscle Control
In some cases, you might find yourself becoming paralyzed on one side of your body.
2. Speaking & Swallowing
It may become difficult for you to speak, eat and swallow when you’re having a stroke. That is because the muscles in your mouth may be affected.
3. Lower Cognitive Function
Many patients report lower cognitive abilities, such as memory loss or finding it difficult to think clearly and properly.
4. Emotional Issues
Some patients may experience serious issues with their emotional health.
It isn’t uncommon for stroke victims to slip into a deep depression.
5. Abnormal Sensations
Numbness, pain, and tingling can occur all over the body, although it’s usually focused on one side.
6. Behavioral Changes
Some people may become more withdrawn after they have experienced a stroke or even lose the ability to care for themselves.
In this case, they might need some extra help during the day with chores or grooming.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle is the main way to prevent a stroke. (7)
That means eating healthy and getting plenty of exercises!
Keep in mind that if you have experienced a stroke before, you’re more likely to have another one in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at how to reduce the risk of stroke:
1. Lower Your Blood Pressure
Making sure to reduce high blood pressure is one of the most important things you can do to prevent a stroke.
2. Change Your Diet
If your diet consists of foods full of cholesterol and saturated fat, it’s time to make a big change.
While you’re at it, you might as well ditch the sugar too!
3. Stop Smoking
Smoking greatly increases the risk of stroke, both for yourself and the people around you — that’s because secondhand smoke can be just as bad for some individuals.
4. Blood Sugar Control
Make sure to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and enough high-quality sleep.
5. Lose Weight
Being obese or overweight can lead to higher blood pressure and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
All of the above are risk factors for stroke.
6. Fruits & Veggies Are the Way to Go
Fill your diet full of fruit, vegetables, nuts, coconut oil, and olive oil!
7. Move, Move, Move!
Physical activity is key to a stroke-free life as it helps lower blood pressure, controls cholesterol levels, and improves your overall health.
Aerobic exercise is a great way to reduce the risk of stroke.
8. Don’t Drink Alcohol
Alcohol, even in moderation, increases the risk of high blood pressure.
In turn, you will also be much more likely to have an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke.
9. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Sleep apnea occurs when the throat becomes blocked by the tongue while you sleep.
Ultimately, this reduces oxygen flow to the brain and is a possible risk factor for a stroke.
If you suffer from OSA, pay your doctor a visit ASAP.
10. Just Say No to Drugs
Stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine greatly increase the risk of a stroke, but you should stay away from all drugs regardless if you want to live a long, vibrant life.
If you have any more questions about the signs, symptoms, and prevention of a stroke, feel free to reach out to us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.