In the US, more than six million people have survived strokes, as reported by the American Stroke Association. Stroke survivors have been aided by medical advancements and quick actions of those who know how to detect strokes and secure help.
Note: The following content is for informational purposes and should not be mistaken for medical advice. Please consult a physician, medical professional or specialist for all health matters. Resources used are linked within the post.
National Stroke Awareness Month
To raise awareness of stroke symptoms and importance of quick treatment, May has been designated National Stroke Awareness Month. To help spread stroke awareness, here we share:
- What a stroke is and the effects that a stroke may have on a person who experiences one.
- How to detect if someone is having a stroke and how to help them.
- What a mini-stroke means for the body.
- Actions that may help in preventing a stroke.
Read on to answer the above questions and to learn about some of our favorite resources for stroke awareness and prevention.
What is a stroke?
In short, a stroke occurs when an artery that carries nutrients and oxygen to the brain becomes blocked, bursts or ruptures, the brain stops receiving the blood it needs, and brain cells begin to die, according to the American Stroke Association.
Detect a stroke by remembering to act FAST
If a stroke is suspected, fast action is recommended, which is why “FAST” is the acronym for stroke detection and seeking help.
- F: Face drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile and note if that smile is uneven or lopsided.
- A: Arm Weakness. Is one of their arms weak or experiencing numbness? Ask the person to lift one arm and note if it drifts downward.
- S: Speech Difficulty. Is the person’s speech slurred or hard to understand? Are they unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The grass is green.” Can the person do this?
- T: Time to call 911. If a person shows any of these symptoms – even if the symptoms go away – call 911 and say “I think this is a stroke,” to help the person get immediate medical attention. Time is very important when it comes to strokes, so note when symptoms have occurred and let emergency responders know.
Possible Effects of a Stroke
We’ve shared what a stroke is, but what are some of its effects? According to the National Stroke Association, depending on which side of the brain the stroke occurs, the damage caused is different.
Left Side of the Brain: When a stroke occurs on the left side of the brain, movement on the right side of the body is affected, as are abilities to do math and science, and speak and understand written language.
Right Side of the Brain: When a stroke occurs on the right side of the brain, movement on the left side of the body is affected, as are the abilities to do creative tasks such as painting, appreciating art or music, recognizing emotion or having spatial awareness.
Specific areas of the Brain: When a stroke damages a specific area of the brain, that part may not function as well as it did before. Walking, speaking, seeing and feeling may be affected. Other effects may include changes in sleep, seizures, impaired movement, fatigue, pain, memory loss, depression, difficulty thinking and bladder control trouble.
What is a mini-stroke and why is it so important?
Separate from a stroke, a person could have a mini-stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), in which the brain’s blood supply is blocked for a short period and the brain temporarily malfunctions, as shared by the National Stroke Association. Symptoms are sudden and may include numbness, weakness or vision loss, difficulty speaking, confusion, severe headache with no known cause and/or loss of balance or coordination. The symptoms last for a short period and then disappear. If a mini-stroke is suspected, a doctor should be seen immediately. A TIA is a serious warning that one might have a stroke, according to the National Stroke Association.
80% of Strokes in Adults are Preventable
To decrease the likelihood of a stroke occurring, preventative measures can be taken. In fact, the American Stroke Association shared that 80 percent of strokes in adults are preventable. More than half are caused by uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Preventative measures that may be taken against strokes include:
- lowering blood pressure if it is high
- finding out if one has an irregular heartbeat
- quitting smoking
- consuming alcohol in moderation if one consumes it
- lowering cholesterol
- making sure blood sugar levels are under control, especially for those with diabetes
- exercising daily
- reducing sodium and fat in one’s diet
Detecting strokes, knowledge of FAST and following recommended prevention actions could absolutely make a difference when it comes to strokes.
Learn more about strokes:
- Stroke.Org — In addition to a variety of resources on stroke awareness, detection, and prevention Stroke.Org provides a fabulous digital download Explaining Strokes that can be printed and shared.
- StrokeAssociation.Org — The American Stroke Association and American Heart Association provide a wealth of information, stories, and resources to help build awareness.