How to Recognize a Stroke
When it comes to strokes, time is of the essence and knowing how to recognize a stroke can mean the difference between long or short-term disability, life or death. Behind heart attacks and cancer, strokes are the third highest cause of death in the United States and require prompt action when they occur. The first step in recognizing a stroke is to understand what a stroke is. A stroke is defined as a cardiovascular disease that affects the arteries of the brain. When a clot blocks a blood vessel (ischemic stroke) that is carrying nutrients and oxygen to the brain or if a clot bursts (hemorrhagic stroke), the brain can no longer get the blood and oxygen that it requires and starts to die. When this occurs a number of outward signs may manifest themselves. It is important to know how to recognize a stroke by these signs and act swiftly. The following are a list of signs that can assist you in how to recognize a stroke.
- Numbness or weakness. If someone you know suddenly is experiencing extreme weakness or complains of a numb sensation on one side of the body, this could be a sign of a stroke and he should be taken to see a doctor immediately. Ask him to raise both arms. Can he keep them up or does one arm start to droop or fall?
- Speech. Another sign that will help you recognize a stroke is sudden difficulty with speech or apparent confusion. Is his speech slurred? Does his words not make sense?
- Visual changes. Sudden decrease in vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes is another sign of a stroke. If possible, ask if it is total, partial, double or blurred vision.
- Impaired motor skills. Does he suddenly have difficulty with walking, coordination, balance or dizziness? Do you notice that one foot or leg seems to drag when he is walking?
- Headache. Is he complaining of a sudden and severe headache for no apparent reason? Does he have a family history of headaches or migraines? Is it localized in one area or feel as if it is the worst headache of his life?
Tips & Warnings:
- If any of these signs are present, seek the care of an emergency medical professional immediately.
- If you are concerned that a stroke has occurred even though symptoms do not exactly match the criteria listed above, it is safest to seek the help of your physician or visit an emergency room for care.
- If you are with someone and you believe they are having a stoke, it is important to note the time of the onset of symptoms.
- A clot busting drug called a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can reduce the long-term disability that results from most forms of stroke if given within three hours of the onset of symptoms.