The term “stroke” derives from an ancient Greek word meaning “struck down with violence.” Very fitting considering how quickly a stroke can occur, and its potentially devastating effects. But what causes a stroke, and would you recognize the symptoms?
In its simplest terms, a stroke is usually caused by something blocking the flow of blood to the brain. Without blood, brain cells die from lack of oxygen after just a few minutes (bleeding in the brain can also trigger the same damage, and also lead to a stroke).
While it’s a leading cause of death in the U.S., strokes can also leave you with long-term impairment or disability. The longer the brain cells go without oxygen, the more damage being done. And it’s that same damage that creates the recognizable warning signs of a stroke. The sooner a stroke victim receives treatment, the less chance they have of suffering long-term effects.
Stroke Warning Signs
From the Mayo Clinic, these are the warning signs you should know:
• Trouble with speaking and understanding. You may experience confusion. You may slur your words or have difficulty understanding speech.
• Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg. You may develop sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body. Try to raise both your arms over your head at the same time. If one arm begins to fall, you may be having a stroke. Similarly, one side of your mouth may droop when you try to smile.
• Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes. You may suddenly have blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or you may see double.
• Headache. A sudden, severe headache, which may be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness or altered consciousness, may indicate you're having a stroke.
• Trouble with walking. You may stumble or experience sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination.
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, remember to think FAST
• Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
• Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to raise up?
• Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
• Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
Time is of the essence, and even if the symptoms seem to go away, you must still seek treatment and evaluation as soon as possible. Remember to think FAST and get emergency care right away.