Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies -- every second counts. If you see or have any of the listed symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Not all these signs occur in every stroke. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, get help fast! Today stroke victims can benefit from new medications and treatments unavailable to patients in years past. For example, clot-busting drugs can stop some strokes in progress, reducing disability and saving lives. But to be effective, these drugs must be given relatively quickly after stroke symptoms first appear. So again, don’t delay -- get help right away! Stroke is America’s No. 3 killer and a leading cause of serious disability. That’s why it’s so important to reduce your risk factors, know the warning signs, and know how to respond quickly and properly if warning signs occur.
Stroke Warning Signs
The American Stroke Association says these are the warning signs of stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you. Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
Risk Factors for a Stroke
Some risk factors for Stroke are genetic and cannot be controlled. However, many of the risk factors can be reduced.
Risk factors you can control include:
- High blood pressure, 2nd most important risk factor
- High chloresterol
- Coronary artery disease
- Other heart conditions such as irregular heartbeat, heart valve conditions, or an enlarged heart
- Physical inactivity
- Use of some medications including birth control pills
- Heavy alcohol use
- Use of some illegal drugs
Prevention of Stroke
The National Stroke Association’s "Stroke Prevention Guidelines" advises patients to:
- Know your blood pressure, have it checked at least once a year
- Find out if you have atrial fibrillation, which encourages the formation of blood clots that could cause a stroke
- If you smoke, stop
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
- Find out if you have high cholesterol
- If you have diabetes, take measures to control the condition
- Include exercise in your daily routine
- Eat a low-salt diet
- Ask your physician if you have circulation problems that could increase the risk of stroke and
- If you experience any stroke symptoms, including sudden weakness of the face or a limb, a blurring of vision, dizziness, or an intense headache, seek immediate medical attention.