Strokes are more common than most people think and they can happen at any time.  It’s important to understand the signs of stroke and how to reduce one’s risk so that it won’t have the chance to creep up on you without warning.

What Causes a Stroke
Most strokes are caused by a blockage of the artery or blood clots.  Even though there are other types of strokes, this type is the most common.  The lack of blood flow to the brain causes the brain tissue to die because it’s not getting the blood flow that it needs to operate normally.

Believe it or not, stroke is one of the most common health conditions that damages the body’s neurological system.  It is also the 4th most common cause of death in the United States, which gives us reason to understand and be prepared in the event that a stroke takes place.

What are the Warning Signs of a Stroke
There are many common warning signs that one could have prior to having a stroke.  Look out for these and don’t hesitate to call 911 if you, or someone you know, demonstrates any of these warning signs.  By making sure that you get help in a timely manner, you can ensure that the person experiencing a stroke has as minimal of damage as possible.

There are times when the symptoms of a stroke may go away, but this doesn’t mean that you should ignore them.  While they may seem to go away, they can come back worse the next time and become permanent if they’re left untreated.

Things to look out for are:

  • Blurred vision or trouble seeing
  • Confusion, trouble speaking properly or understanding what’s going on
  • Dizziness, loss of coordination/balance and/or trouble walking
  • Numbness (or weakness) of arms, legs or the face – especially on a single side of the body
  • Severe headaches with an unknown cause

How to Help Someone Who is Experiencing a Stroke
Helping quickly and effectively is critical when someone around you is having a stroke.  By knowing what to do in case of a stroke, you’ll be prepared and ready to take action if the need arises.

  • Be there for the stroke victim.  You need to make sure that they don’t hurt themselves any further.  Stay by their side until help arrives.  By doing this you’ll be able to keep them safe until they get the treatment that they need to recover from the stroke.
  • Don’t hesitate to call 911.  In order to improve the chances for a full recovery, medical assistance needs to be received as soon as possible.  The longer that a stroke victim waits to get help, the higher the chance that the condition will get worse or become permanent.
  • Don’t let the situation get you upset. You need to stay calm because extra stress could worsen the situation.  Be there for the stroke victim and reassure them that they’re going to be alright and get the help that they need.  Many stroke victims do end up recovering so there’s no need to jump to conclusions.
  • Food and medicine shouldn’t be consumed by the victim.  Until a doctor says it’s okay, the victim should not eat or take any of their medicines.  This is to ensure that treatment is as effective as possible and that there are no adverse effects that would worsen the victim’s situation.
  • Preparedness is key.  Remember when the stroke symptoms started and what they were doing at the time the symptoms started.  Also, take their medications (or a list of their medications) to the hospital with you to ensure that the doctor and nurses know what the person usually takes.

By knowing what to do ahead of time, you’ll be well-prepared to ensure the best outcome possible for the person experiencing a stroke.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Jackie Borst, PA-C