May is National Stroke Awareness Month and a good time to learn the warning signs of a stroke.
Knowing what causes a stroke, what you can do to prevent one and what to do if you or someone else may be experiencing a stroke could save a life – possibly even your own.
The most common warning signs of a stroke are:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one eye, blurred or double vision
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss or balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
If you or someone you know is having some or all of the above symptoms, it’s critical to call 9-1-1 or your emergency service immediately. Do not delay. Do not worry about being embarrassed if the symptoms turn out to be something other than a stroke – it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
A stroke is a "brain attack" that occurs from a sudden interruption of blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, leaking blood into the spaces surrounding the brain cells. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the number one cause of disability in adults in the United States, with 795,000 new strokes occurring each year.
Brain cells die when they no longer receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood or when they are damaged by sudden bleeding. That’s why it is so important for a person suffering from a stroke to get medical care right away.
“Every minute counts,” said Karen Phillips, RN, clinical coordinator for Samaritan Stroke Services. “When someone is having a stroke, the sooner they are treated, the greater their chances are of having a complete recovery or experiencing limited damage. When strokes are treated within three hours with “clot-busting” medication, most patients will do very well, but that drug will not be as effective after three hours from the onset of the stroke, so time truly is of the essence.”
Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, atrial fibrillation and smoking.
“If stroke or other risk factors run in your family, there's a higher chance you could be at risk too,” Phillips said. “By talking to your doctor and taking preventative measures, you'll have a much better chance of avoiding a stroke."