According to the NIH, about 795,000 people in the United States have strokes each year, and of those people, around 137,000 die. It’s one of the leading causes of death and or permanent disablement, which makes it all the more vital to know about the early signs of a stroke and how you can go about minimizing the consequences.
Who Are at Risk?
The first thing that one should consider when it comes to the chances of a person incurring a stroke, is the person themselves. For example, people who are older (often at the age of 55 or over) are more likely to incur a stroke. Men, in general, are also at a greater risk.
Even more so when the man is African American or has been diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease in the past. People who drink or smoke heavily, have high cholesterol levels, are physically inactive and have a high sodium and fat diet should also watch out for early signs of a stroke.
Of course, anyone can have a stroke. It’s not just those that are ‘at risk’ that should be watching for the early signs. But it’s important to know your level of risk, nonetheless.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Now, the first thing that you have to watch out for is a Transient Ischemic Attack. These act as mini or warning strokes. They’re signs of occlusions in your brain. Meaning, that there is a blocked off artery or blood vessel cutting off the oxygen in your brain. These attacks are a temporary blockage, but they usually prelude a major stroke.
The signs of a TIA are very similar to a serious stroke. So, it’s a good marker for knowing when treatment is necessary.
F.A.S.T. – The Most Common Symptoms of a Stroke
F.A.S.T. is the acronym to remember when trying to identify a stroke. It was created to be this way in order to make it as easy as possible to remember. Knowing these signs should give you a leg up, even if they’re not all the symptoms of a stroke, they’re the most common and easiest to identify.
- The F for F.A.S.T. stands for Face Drooping. This is the lack of sensation in the face that causes it to become numb. When trying to identify it on another person, you should notice that asking them to smile will result in an uneven and droopy quirk of lips.
- Next is the A, which stands for Arm Weakness. Much like the previous, this is a symptom that can be tested very easily, this time by asking the person to lift their arms. If one arm droops downwards, that is your sign.
- Next is the S, which stands for Speech Difficulty. People who suffer from strokes, have a hard time speaking, the words tend to come out slurred and difficult to understand. Test this symptom by asking the person to repeat a simple phrase, like ‘The sky is blue,’ several times.
- The last letter in the acronym is not a symptom but an instruction. T stands for, it’s Time to Call 911. There is no time for any delay, the signs mentioned above could be a signal of either a minor or major stroke. Either way, it’s best if the person is taken to the hospital immediately for treatment.
Other symptoms that are not included in the acronym above includes numbness focused on one side of the body, confusion, sudden loss of vision, dizziness, headaches, and more.
Strokes require immediate medical attention, and the faster you see the signs, the faster the intervention can begin. It’s through knowing these signs that you can help prevent permanent disablement or death for you and the people that you love.
- “How Many People Are Affected by/at Risk for Stroke?” Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/stroke/conditioninfo/risk.
- Kennedy, James, et al. “Fast Assessment of Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack to Prevent Early Recurrence (FASTER): A eRandomized Controlled Pilot Trial.” The Lancet. Neurology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17931979.