When the blood supply to the brain is cut off, brain cells die. That’s called a stroke, and it can cause permanent disability or death within minutes.
When signs of a stroke appear, every second counts. Symptoms include sudden numbness of the face or limbs, confusion, difficulty with speech or cognition, visual disturbances, trouble walking, loss of balance, and severe headache. Although the majority of strokes occur in people aged 65 or older, they can and do occur any age.
If you suspect someone is showing signs of a stroke, act FAST:
- F = FACE Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- A = ARM Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- S = SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
- T = TIME If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and there are some important things you should know.
- Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of long-term disability.
- The risk of stroke is higher in women than in men; higher in African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islander than in Whites; in people over age 55; if there is a family history of stroke; if there is a history of migraines; in people with high blood pressure; and for people with disabilities.
- Stroke will cost the U.S. an estimated $73.6 billion in 2010.
Stroke does not always lead to disability or death, but getting to the hospital as quickly as possible is crucial. Treatment in the first three hours after symptoms begin decreases the potential for long-term disability.
Many contributing factors to stroke such as age, gender, and genetics are unavoidable. Some risk factors come from behaviors we can control, such as smoking and abuse of alcohol and drugs. Controlling weight and blood pressure also improve our odds.
A TIA is a transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke that does no lasting damage. Not to be taken lightly, a TIA is considered a warning stroke and is cause to seriously evaluate risk factors that can be controlled.
Be your family’s own best health advocate — learn the signs and symptoms of stroke — and act F.A.S.T.
A public service announcement from the American Stroke Association:
For more information:
- The Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry
- American Heart Association
- American Stroke Association
- Brain Attack Coalition
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- National Stroke Association
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control
Related Reading on Care2: