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How to Know if You are Having a Stroke

One way to remember the signs of a stroke is to remember the mnemonic FAST which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time.


Face

Having a facial droop is a sign of a stroke. This means you may be unable to raise one of your eyebrows or smile on one side of your face.


Arms

A stroke may cause weakness in one of your arms or cause you to be unable to move one of your arms.


Speech

People who are having a stroke may have slurred speech due to weakness in their face and tongue. Having a stroke may affect the part of the brain responsible for language. When this happens, people may be unable to speak at all or their speech may be unintelligible. Sometimes when someone has a stroke, they can understand you but are unable to get out the words to communicate.

Time

If you or someone you know is having any of these symptoms it is time to call 911. Do not delay treatment every second counts when it comes to saving brain cells. Brain cells called neurons do not heal as well as other parts of your body like when your skin heals from a cut.


What are some other symptoms of a stroke?

People who are having a stroke may have weakness in one of their legs and may feel dizzy and have difficulty walking. People may also feel dizzy or have difficulty with balance. Blurry vision or partial blindness may also occur during a stroke.


Two Kinds of Stroke

There are two types of stroke and both types are dangerous. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks the blood flow in an artery of your brain. Then your brain cells in that area start to die because they are no longer receiving oxygen from your blood.


A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels in your brain bursts. Blood that flows out of the broken blood vessel and puts pressure on the brain. Blood is unable to effectively carry oxygen to your brain cells which then begin to die.


What are some risk factors for stroke?

Cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes, heart arrhythmias, high cholesterol, sickle cell disease, personal history of a stroke, and heavy alcohol intake are all risk factors for a stroke. Using blood thinners, cocaine, or having a bleeding disorder will put you at risk for a hemorrhagic stroke.


Do blood thinners prevent stroke?

Blood thinners prevent ischemic strokes, which are strokes caused by blood clots. Taking blood thinners increases the risk for hemorrhagic stroke. When prescribing blood thinners, we take an individualized approach and look at a person’s risk factors, and carefully weigh the risks of taking blood thinners against the benefits. With the correct dosing of medication, we can prevent many ischemic strokes with blood thinners and avoid hemorrhagic stroke. Talk to your health care provider before starting an over-the-counter blood thinner like aspirin.


What can you do to prevent stroke?

I have cared for stroke patients as young as 21, and many in their 30s and 40s. Many times people who have a stroke at a young age have additional risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, and heart arrhythmias just to name a few. Keeping these conditions under control will decrease your stroke risk. This means taking your medications as directed and following up with your healthcare provider as they recommend. Eating a heart-healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and not using nicotine products.


*This article is intended for general information purposes only and is not medical advice. Please seek counseling from your primary care provider for personalized medical advice.*

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