What to do if someone shows the symptoms of stroke…
The numbers are staggering. More than 795,000 strokes occur each year in the United States—the nation’s fourth-leading cause of death, causing more serious long-term disabilities than any other disease. Nearly three-quarters of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, and the risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.
Signs and Effects
Sherri Shane of Peoria knows all too well how suddenly a stroke can happen. “On January 30, 2015, I was feeling great,” she recalls. “I had a busy morning and decided to run some errands. I was at the rear of a local store, when, with no warning, I became disoriented. When I looked up, there were large jagged halos around the lights in the ceiling, and my speech was garbled. I grabbed onto my shopping cart, thinking that I would push it to the next aisle, where it might be less crowded. When I rounded the corner, someone spoke to me. While I was too disoriented to see her, I knew her voice. I told her I thought I was having a stroke. She helped me to the pharmacy, where they took my blood pressure. My friend Tina believed I was having a stroke, as the left side of my face was not okay. She called 911.”
Stroke is caused by a blocked blood vessel or bleeding in the brain. The signs of a stroke include:
- Sudden severe headache;
- Vision problems;
- Trouble walking or talking; and
- Dizziness and slurred speech.
Four million Americans are living with the effects of stroke. The length of time to recover from a stroke depends on its severity. While 50 to 70 percent of stroke survivors regain functional independence, 15 to 30 percent remain permanently disabled. A stroke usually happens suddenly, but may occur over hours. For example, you may have mild weakness at first; over time, you may not be able to move the arm and/or leg on one side of your body. If several smaller strokes occur over time, you may have a more gradual change in walking, balance, thinking or behavior. This is called multi-infarct dementia.
It isn’t always easy for people to recognize the symptoms of a small stroke. They may mistakenly think the symptoms can be attributed to aging, or they may be confused with similar symptoms of other conditions. F. A. S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you’ll know that you need to call 911 for help right away. F.A.S.T. is:
- Face drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
- Arm weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms.
- Speech difficulty. Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
- Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.
Other symptoms you should know:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the leg, arm or face;
- Sudden confusion or trouble understanding;
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
If someone shows any of these symptoms, immediately call 911 or emergency medical services.
Sherri and her friend Tina did the right thing by calling 911 immediately. Sherri credits her recovery to the ER and medical teams at UnityPoint Health – Methodist. “In every case, from those who cleaned the rooms to the doctors and nurses who cared for me, everyone was kind, caring and willing to make sure that I had whatever I needed—always with a smile on their faces. My recovery was due to the right people being in the right places at the right time, and I’ll be forever grateful.” iBi