It’s a frightening reality that every year, nearly 800,000 Americans get a stroke, i.e., one person every 40 seconds. Strokes can be fatal if not treated quickly, so knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke is highly necessitated. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, so we are promoting stroke awareness education through this blog and in our practice.
Let’s talk about what strokes are, the signs and symptoms of strokes and the FAST acronym, who is affected by strokes, how to prevent them, and where you can find the best neurologist.
What Is a Stroke?
A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a sudden, vascular event that interrupts blood flow to the brain. This can lead to the death of brain cells due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or bursts. This can be due to a blood clot (ischemic stroke) or a bleed (hemorrhagic stroke).
You may have also heard of “mini-strokes”. These occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked for less than five minutes and are less severe than full-on strokes. They are also called “warning strokes” as they tend to occur before experiencing significant strokes.
Signs and Symptoms of A Stroke
The signs and symptoms of a stroke include sudden onset of the following symptoms:
- Neurological deficits – when someone experiences a sudden change in their level of consciousness, cognitive function, or motor skills.
- Numbness in the face and arms, especially on one side of the body
- Severe headache
To remember the symptoms, use the acronym FAST:
F – Face. Look for drooping on one side of the face when they talk or smile.
A – Arms. Ask the person to hold both their arms out straight. Are their arms level?
S – Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Are they slurring their words?
T – Time. The sooner someone with a stroke gets treatment, the better. If the person is experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away.
Risk Factors for Strokes
Strokes can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. However, some people are more prone to strokes than others. Some common risk factors for strokes include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Carotid artery disease (hardening of the carotid artery, main blood supplier to the brain)
- Clotting disorders or history of blood clots
- Heart disease
- Drinking alcohol
Women are more prone to stroke because hypertension is more common in women. In particular, African American women are at an even higher risk because they are at a higher risk for hypertension, obesity, and diabetes than non-Hispanic white women.
How to Prevent a Stroke?
The best way to prevent a stroke is to know your risk factors and make changes to your lifestyle to reduce your risk. Some things you can do to lower your risk of stroke include:
- Quitting smoking
- Controlling blood pressure
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Exercising regularly
- Eating more fruits, vegetables, and foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol
Talk to your doctor about which risk factors you have and how to make a specific diet and lifestyle plan to reduce your risk of stroke. Your doctor may also refer you a neurologist or vascular neurologist, to maintain healthy blood flow to the brain.
In severe cases, where atherosclerosis and carotid artery disease are advanced and blood flow to the brain is limited, even a small clot can be very dangerous and cause a stroke. In this case, your doctor may recommend vascular surgery to open up arteries that have narrowed and restore proper blood flow to the brain.
Neurologist Near Me
If you or a loved one is at risk or stroke, visit one of our 10 Intercoastal Medical Groups locations to consult with a highly qualified and board-certified primary care physician to talk about stroke and how you can prevent it. If necessary, our primary care physicians can refer you to one of our neurologists. With over 100 physicians, we are able and happy to give you comprehensive health and wellness services in which we not only treat disease but work to prevent it.