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Health & Wellness, Rehabilitation, Resources for Caregivers

How to Spot Stroke Risks and Warning Signs

Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability. According to the CDC, about 795,000 people have a stroke each year. The good news is that strokes are treatable. However, the window of time for treatment is short.

Even if you find yourself in good health, it’s important to know how to spot the warning signs of a stroke in the event you need to help someone out in an emergency. Oftentimes, a person having a stroke may not be aware of changes in their physical abilities, thinking or emotions.

If there’s even a slight chance someone is having a stroke, the first thing you should do is call 911 or alert someone who is able to do so, regardless of how mild the symptoms appear to be. Our Plaza health center team members at Querencia Barton Creek are trained in how to identify and respond to emergencies.

Learning the warning signs of stroke — and how to respond — can save lives. We hope you take the time to read through this article and share it with others. Let’s get the message out!

What is a Stroke?

A stroke, also referred to as a cerebrovascular accident, is a sudden interruption in the blood supply of the brain. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the more brain damage can occur. A stroke can also be fatal.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a U.S. government agency, provides a more thorough definition of what a stroke is on its website. “A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. When a stroke occurs, brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they no longer receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to function.”

There are two different types of strokes. In the most common occurrence, referred to as an ischemic stroke, a blood clot blocks or plugs a blood vessel or artery in the brain. According to NINDS, about 80 percent of all strokes are ischemic. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel in the brain breaks and bleeds into the brain. About 20 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic.

Know Your Stroke Risk Factors

There are a number of factors that can put you at a higher risk for stroke. These include physical and health conditions, behaviors and lifestyle choices and family history.

Physical & Health Conditions

High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is a condition that occurs when your blood pressure — the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels — is consistently too high.

Other health conditions that can lead to stroke include having a previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke), high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and sickle cell disease.

Behaviors & Lifestyle Choices

Your lifestyle choices can directly affect your chances of having a stroke. And likewise, healthy behaviors can lower your risk for stroke. It’s never too late to adopt a healthier lifestyle!

Behaviors that put you at a higher risk of stroke include unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, obesity, too much alcohol and tobacco use. Adjustments in diet and exercise can make a big difference in managing stress and maintaining mobility. Querencia at Barton Creek provides fresh, healthy dining options for residents. Our community also offers year-round wellness opportunities.

Genetics & Family History

Genetic factors can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, and other related medical conditions. Stroke risk increases further when these genetic factors combine with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking, inactivity and eating an unhealthy diet.

Factors that put you at a higher risk of stroke include age, gender and race. The older you are the more likely you are to have a stroke. Stroke is also more common in women than men. According to the CDC, “Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska Natives may be more likely to have a stroke than non-Hispanic whites or Asians.” African Americans are actually more likely to suffer from a stroke at a younger age, have a higher mortality rate, and often take longer to recover. This is likely due to a number of societal and medical reasons.

While genetic factors for risk of stroke are out of your control, making behavior and lifestyle changes can still provide a huge benefit and lower your overall risk of having a stroke.

Warning Signs of Stroke

The CDC spells out five of the most common warning signs of stroke in men and women on its website. The signs of stroke in men and women include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Call 911 right away if you or a loved one has any of these symptoms. The window to get someone to the hospital after a stroke occurrence is about an hour. The treatment for stroke, which includes TPA injection, needs to be administered within a three hour window.

Failure to respond quickly can result in more serious brain damage, disability or death.

Think “F.A.S.T.”

FAST is an acronym designed to help increase the speed of response to someone having a stroke. The American Heart Association outlines the acronym as follows on its website.

F — Face Drooping

Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?

A — Arm Weakness

Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S — Speech Difficulty

Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.

T — Time to Call 911

If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Every Minute Counts During a Stroke

Learning and sharing the F.A.S.T. acronym and additional stroke warning signs can help save lives. The faster a person having a stroke receives treatment, the more likely they are to recover. The proper response to a stroke? Call 911 immediately or find someone who can if you are unable.

If you or someone you love has suffered a stroke, trust Querencia’s skilled nursing care and rehabilitation services to support you. Here, you or your loved one receive expert care with help from our trained physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy teams.

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