We all know or have heard of someone who has suffered from the devastating effects of a stroke, whether directly or through a loved one. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the primary cause of disability. Each year, 780,000 new and recurrent strokes occur in the United States, affecting 55,000 more women than men. The increased rate of stroke among women is partly due to women's longer life expectancy. But researchers also suspect that women, particularly those under the age of 55, are more vulnerable because they are not familiar with the risk factors associated with stroke. Because of this, women need to familiarize themselves with both the risk factors and warning signs of stroke. A lack of awareness regarding stroke symptoms can literally mean the difference between life and death.
What are the warning signs?
Warning signs that you could be having a stroke include:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding others
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden dizziness, loss of coordination or balance or trouble walking
• Sudden severe headache with no obvious cause
If you think someone else may be having a stroke, the National Stroke Association recommends to Act F.A.S.T. with this simple test:
FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?
TIME: If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important. Call 911 or get to the hospital fast. Brain cells are dying.
What to do if you think you or someone else is having a stroke
Quick action can greatly minimize the damage inflicted by a stroke. If you or someone you are with experiences any of the warning signs above, call 911 or get to a hospital as soon as possible.
Once you arrive at the hospital, it is important to clearly convey symptoms to the emergency department physician. If your speech has been affected, a family member or friend may need to help you communicate. Doctors will perform an exam and take a medical history. If they suspect a stroke, they may perform some diagnostic tests: imaging tests that take picture of the brain similar to X-rays, electrical tests that record the electrical impulses of the brain and blood flow tests that show changes in blood flow to the brain. These tests help doctors determine the best treatment. More treatment options are available the earlier that you present to the hospital.