Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. Stroke can happen to anyone at any age, so it is vital to know what stroke is and what the warning signs are. Recognizing these symptoms could save your life or the life of someone around you.
“There are two types of strokes, and they both cause the same problem, a lack of blood flow in the brain,” said Christine Perry, DO, emergency room physician at McLaren Greater Lansing. “You most commonly hear of ischemic stroke, which is a blockage of a vessel in the brain.”
The other type is hemorrhagic stroke, which is when there’s a rupture to the blood vessels in the brain. This lack of blood flow damages the tissues in the brain, which can cause a change in lifestyle, disability, or death.
There are many warning signs of stroke and being able to identify them is extremely important. “Symptoms of a stroke come in a wide variety,” said Dr. Perry. “You could experience anything from dizziness, to vision changes; weakness in the face, arms, or legs; numbness in the body; and difficulty communicating or speaking to others.”
If you think you or someone around you might be having a stroke, it is vital to know the best course of action to take. It is a misconception that dealing with a stroke can be postponed.
“We see people staying home, waiting to see if the symptoms go away, or they’ll make an appointment with their doctor,” said Dr. Perry. “A stroke is a medical emergency, and you need to seek help immediately.”
A great way to remember stroke symptoms is the acronym “BEFAST.” The “B” stands for balance, which refers to a loss of balance. The “E” is for eyes, which refers to a loss of vision or trouble seeing. The “F” stands for face, which refers to an uneven face or crooked smile. The “A” stands for arm, which refers to one or two hanging arms, or the inability to raise arms equally. The “S” stands for speech, which refers to slurred speech, drooling, or confusion. The “T” stands for terrible headache and time, meaning if a severe headache occurs, then time is critical.
“One of the things people often do is, if their symptoms go away, they’ll stay home and consider they’ve had a mini-stroke,” said Dr. Perry. A proper diagnosis can help you get the treatment needed. Also, a physician can help modify your medical therapy, whether it’s your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, or encouraging a healthy lifestyle to aid in prevention of any future strokes.
“Going straight to the ER is always the best plan if you think you’re having a stroke. It could save your life.”
To learn more about stroke, visit https://www.mclaren.org/main/stroke.