According to the National Institutes of Health, “Each year in the United States, there are more than 800,000 strokes.”

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, according the Centers for Disease Control. More than any other disease a stroke can cause serious, long-term disabilities. The American Heart Association Stroke Council (ASC) says that stroke victims are vulnerable to repeat strokes.

CarePlus Home Health would like to offer you a few tips on how to recognize stroke-like symptoms and the necessary steps to take to reduce the risk of having a stroke.

What is a Stroke?

When a major blood vessel in the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts, a portion of the brain cannot get the blood it needs, causing brain cells to die.

This is a stroke.

What Causes a Stroke?  

The two-most common types of strokes are hemorrhagic and ischemic.

  • A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel in the brain ruptures. High blood pressure is the most common cause of a hemorrhagic stroke.
  • An Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed. According to the ASC, ischemic strokes account for 87% of all strokes.

When a person has a stroke, depending on where in the brain the stroke occurs, the part of the body controlled by that part of the brain cannot function. Short of death, strokes can cause paralysis, loss of vision, memory loss as well as other possible outcomes – some of which are irreversible.

Remember to ACT FAST!

Medical intervention is needed as quickly as possible when experiencing stroke symptoms.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an ischemic stroke requires specific pharmaceuticals to break up the clot in the brain; medication should be administered “within 4.5 hours from when symptoms first started if given intravenously.

The sooner a stroke patient is treated with medication, the better. Quick medical treatment may not only improve a stroke victim’s chances of survival, additional medical complication may be avoided.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the acronym F-A-S-T can help you remember stroke symptoms.

F = Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?

A = Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S = Speech difficulty: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are their words slurred?

T = Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.

Additional stroke symptoms include dizziness; loss of balance or coordination; trouble walking; problems seeing out of one or both eyes; severe headache; numbness of the face; and sudden confusion or trouble understanding others.

Keeping in mind the FAST signs (see above), it is imperative contact emergency services as soon as possible if you or someone else displays any stroke symptoms.

Do NOT Let COVID-19 Prevent You From Seeking Treatment

Millions of Americans are rightfully following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines with respect to COVID-19; however, these social distancing measures should not prevent you from getting emergency medical attention should you experience stroke-like symptoms.  

Call 911!

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are trained to assess your condition and take immediate steps to hospitalize someone having a stroke. The risks associated with not obtaining treatment for a stroke far outweigh the potential exposure to COVID-19, particularly when healthcare professionals involved – from the EMT to the treating doctors and nurses – are made aware of any underlying health concerns (e.g., a compromised immune system).

Take Care of Yourself!

The CDC offers the following stroke prevention guidelines:

  • Eat a healthy, low-sodium diet; include plenty of fruits and vegetables;
  • Maintain a healthy weight;
  • Be physically active.
  • Do not smoke;
  • Avoid secondhand smoke;
  • Limit your alcohol use;
  • Prevent or manage your other health conditions, especially high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.

Some contributing strokes factors – age, race and gender, for example – are outside of your control. Living a healthy lifestyle, however, can help prevent you or your loved one from having a stroke.