Unlike other medical conditions, a stroke can happen with absolutely no warning. The first symptoms of a stroke begin after blood supply to the brain has already been compromised.
Since brain cells are dependent on a steady supply of blood to continue working, time is of the essence. A basic understanding of the signs and symptoms of a stroke and how to appropriately respond can help save a life down the road.
Certain individuals are more at risk for stroke than others. High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, or excessive drug use significantly increases a person’s risk of stroke. Individuals who have had a stroke in the past are also at a greater risk for a repeat incident. The following signs and symptoms are good indicators that a person may be having a stroke. If you find yourself in a situation where you suspect you or another person is having a stroke, these instructions can help you remain calm and know what to do.
Early recognition of a stroke allows you to act quickly. Knowing early warning signs can be life-saving and limit neurological damage. The warning signs of a stroke are fairly easy to spot, especially in someone you know well. The symptoms of a stroke will appear suddenly without any obvious cause. They include weakness or numbness in the face or limbs, difficulty comprehending speech, inability to speak, dizziness and imbalance, a severe headache and trouble with vision.
Once you suspect someone is having a stroke, you should immediately check the person for telltale signs to confirm your suspicions. The FAST method is a great way to remember the steps for determining if a person is having a stroke. The first three letters in this acronym represent a significant stroke symptom you can check for. First, ask the person to smile. If their face seems relaxed or drooping on one side, that is a big warning sign. Next, have the person raise both arms. A stroke victim will generally not be able to control one arm, and it will float toward the ground. Next, check their speech. Slurred, confused speech usually indicates a stroke has occurred.
The final letter of the FAST acronym stands for time. The sooner you call 9-1-1, the better chance the stroke victim has of sustaining minimal brain damage. If the first three steps of FAST have given results that indicate a stroke, get in touch with emergency services immediately.
If you suspect you have had a stroke and are alone, as soon as you have called 9-1-1, try to find another person to help you. With a loss of balance, it is easy to fall and further injure yourself. A companion can ensure that you stay safe until the ambulance arrives.
The first inclination of someone suffering a stroke may be to grab a glass of water or a snack. It is imperative that they be prevented from eating or drinking. During a stroke, muscle control is compromised, and this can make swallowing impossible. Refraining from ingesting food and drink eliminates possible choking hazards.
As difficult as it may be when in an emergency situation, remaining calm can save a life. Keeping a clear head will allow you to better assess the victim and keep them safe. Your calmness will be reassuring. Since many strokes are caused by high blood pressure, a calm attitude can keep the person’s blood pressure from spiking further.
The more information the paramedics and doctors have about the patient, the better they will be able to treat them. Try to keep track of all symptoms, the approximate time they first appeared and any other unusual facts. If you know the person well, you can also have a list of their medications ready to give the first responders.
If you are in the category of those at high-risk for stroke, or live and work with high-risk individuals, preparing for the worst is the best thing you can do to save a life.
The information contained in this article should not be used to replace the advice, care, diagnosis or treatment from a medical doctor, certified personal trainer, therapist, dietitian, or nutritionist.