Must Know Signs of Stroke

Strokes are serious, life-threatening attacks that affect the brain’s blood vessels. Even strokes that aren’t fatal can still result in permanent damage. In fact, strokes are both the fifth cause of death and a top cause of disability in the United States. Considering these devastating consequences, it pays to know more about stroke, particularly the symptoms. After all, catching the signs of stroke early and seeking medical attention right away can make all the difference.

With about 800,000 people a year in the U.S. suffering from stroke, it’s important to know the warning signs of stroke…

10. How Do Strokes Happen?

Strokes happen when blood vessels in and around the brain either become blocked or burst. So, strokes result in loss of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which can result in some serious consequences due to brain tissue death. If ruptured vessels are involved, pressure is also increased on the brain, further upping the odds of permanent damage and even death.

So, just what are the common signs of stroke?

9. Common Signs of Stroke

Not everyone who experiences a stroke will experience the exact same symptoms. However, the most common signs of stroke include:

  • Drooping or weakening of the face, usually on one side
  • Arm weakness or numbness, usually on one side
  • Difficulty of speech, particularly slurring
  • Potential nausea, vomiting, hiccups
  • Imbalance and difficulty walking
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sudden confusion
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Fever

There’s an easy way to remember these signs; it’s called F.A.S.T.

8. Think F.A.S.T.

F.A.S.T. is a handy acronym for noticing the signs of stroke. It stands for:

  • Face drooping: Ask someone to smile. Notice if one side of the person’s face seems to sag.
  • Arm weakness: Ask someone to raise their arms. Notice if someone has difficult raising one arm or one arm drifts down.
  • Speech difficulty: Ask someone to repeat some phrases. Notice if they slur their speech or have issues repeating or remembering it.
  • Time to call 911: Get professional help right away.

In other words, if you notice that yourself or someone else experiences numbness, confusion, vision problems, trouble walking, and/or intense headache, it’s time to pick up the phone and call for help right away.

However, some strokes don’t have any noticeable symptoms; they might only be detected after they occur…

7. Signs of Silent Strokes

Silent strokes are strokes that you may not even recognize have happened. Sometimes they are accompanied by no signs or symptoms that are mild enough to ignore. Or, memory loss can occur, so you don’t remember the episode occurring at all.

Signs that silent strokes have occurred include:

  • Damage shown with a brain scan
  • Slight memory problems that weren’t present prior
  • Some issues with mobility and getting around

Even though these strokes seemingly pass under the radar, they can still cause major damage.

Now, there are multiple types of stroke, and the type of stroke you have can mean different symptoms

6. Types of Stroke & Their Symptoms

There are two main kinds of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes happen when blood vessels clot or are otherwise obstructed. Hemorrhagic strokes are much more serious, resulting from ruptured vessels.

Now, ischemic strokes are by far the most common variety…

Ischemic strokes account for about 87% of all strokes, according to Stroke.org. This common stroke happens when arteries in and leading to the brain become obstructed from something like a clot. People are much more likely to survive an ischemic attack than a hemorrhagic one. In fact, one study reports that 60% of those who suffered an ischemic stroke survived at least one year past the attack.

Common signs of ischemic stroke include:

  • Numbness or weakness in one side of the body, particularly the arm, leg, or face
  • Sudden, intense headaches with no apparent cause
  • Mental confusion
  • Vision problems in one or both eyes, such as vision loss or blurred vision
  • Clumsiness or coordination issues, such as dizziness or walking difficulties
  • Lightheadedness

Hemorrhagic strokes, unfortunately, are much more severe and therefore much harder to recover from…

5. Signs of Hemorrhagic Stroke

Credit: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NIH)

Hemorrhagic strokes are severe attacks on the brain, resulting from bursting blood vessels. When someone suffers a hemorrhagic stroke, blood builds up inside the head, which means lots of pressure on the brain… which can lead to serious damage. If the vessels are inside the brain, it is known as an intracerebral hemorrhage. Conversely, if the vessels surround the brain, it is known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage. The vessels most likely to burst? Aneurysms and AVMs, or ateriovenois malformations.

Signs of hemorrhagic stroke include:

  • Intense headache with no apparent cause
  • Changes in vision, such as sensitivity to light or blurred sight
  • Sudden coordination and balance problems
  • Seizures or fainting
  • Paralysis on one side of the body
  • Numbness or weakness in one leg, arm or side of the face
  • Sudden confusion or difficulties talking

Unfortunately, it is much harder to treat and survive this type of attack. According to one study, just 38% of people who survived an intracerebral stroke lived at least one year past the attack. That percentage dropped down to just 24% after five years.

While hemorrhagic and ischemic are the two major types of stroke, there are other varieties to be aware of as well; after all, these strokes sometimes come with their own unique symptoms

4. Other Types of Stroke & Their Symptoms

Other types of stroke include:

A “Mini Stroke”: Also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a mini stroke is a temporary clot that doesn’t cause permanent damage. Signs of mini stroke include difficulty speaking, weakness/numbness on one side of the body, changes in vision, strange tastes or smells, confusion, tingling, and dizziness. However, that doesn’t mean you should take it lightly. Mini strokes are a serious sign that you should seek out medical help.

A Brain Stem Stroke: This stroke occurs in the brain stem. It can affect both sides of the body, unlike how most strokes only seem to affect one side or the other. Signs of brain stem strokes often include dizziness, imbalance, vertigo and possible double vision, confusion, and slurred speech. Unlike most strokes, though, a brain stem attack usually doesn’t result in weakness on one side of the face. Interestingly, even though a symptom of a brain stem stroke is slurred speech, permanent brain stem stroke damage usually doesn’t involve speech.

A Cryptogenic Stroke: This terms simply means an attack for which doctors cannot determine a cause. Its symptoms are typically common stroke signs.

Clearly, strokes are no laughing matter. The best way to treat one? Prevention. Part of prevention involves knowing the risk factors of stroke

3. Stroke Risk Factors

The most common risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking

Other factors, such as age and ethnicity, can also place someone at greater risk. Fortunately, there are steps people can take to reduce the risk of experiencing stroke

2. Tips for Preventing Stroke

Great ways to reduce the risk of stroke include:

  • Keeping blood sugar and cholesterol levels under control
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough quality sleep, about 7-9 hours a night
  • Not smoking

Those who have experienced stroke or think they may be at risk should talk to their doctors for in-depth advice on how best to manage stroke risk.

1. Final Thoughts

Stroke is a serious, life-threatening attack that everyone should take seriously. Remember, the easiest way to notice a stroke is to think F.A.S.T.! While some people are at greater risk of stroke, there are ways to help prevent one from happening. For example, certain lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and exercising regularly can reduce someone’s risk of stroke.

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