A stroke is a condition that develops when blood flow to any part of the brain decreases or is interrupted. This is a potentially fatal condition as it prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching the brain, resulting in the death of the brain cells in the affected region.
Consequently, the function of this part of the brain is affected. There are two types of strokes, namely an ischemic stroke and a haemorrhagic stroke. An ischemic stroke, which is the more common of the two, occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off usually due to the presence of a blood clot. A haemorrhagic stroke on the other hand, occurs when a weak blood vessel that transports blood in the brain bursts, leading to internal brain bleeding.
In addition to these two conditions, it is important to make mention of a related medical condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (abbreviated TIA). TIA refers to the temporary interruption of blood supply to the brain, often referred to as a mini-stroke. It typically lasts between a few minutes and a couple of hours. A transient ischaemic attack must be treated with urgency because it is often an indication of an impending full stroke.
This article outlines some of the ways you can quickly spot the warning signs of a stroke. There are a number of symptoms which you can be on the look out for to spot a stroke. A simple and easy to remember acronym has been devised for this purpose. Abbreviated FAST, this acronym helps recognize a stroke and goes a long way in enabling the affected person to get help quickly. Use FAST as described below to remember the major warning signs of a stroke.
F: Face Drooping
Ask the affected person to smile. Does it appear as though one side of their face is drooping? Does their smile look uneven or crooked? This is a sign that it could likely be a stroke. In addition to this, stroke sometimes causes numbness of the face.
A: Arms Weakness
Ask the affected person to raise their arms above the head at the same time and monitor how they do this. Is one arm extremely weak that the person cannot lift it up? Is one arm numb, or does it drift downwards? Similarly, numbness on one side of the body is cause for concern. These are warning signs in the FAST acronym that calls for immediate medical attention.
S: Speech Changes
When a person experiences a stroke, their speech is noticeably affected. It tends to be quite slurred and incoherent. Find out if the affected person is unable to speak with clarity, or finds comprehension of basic sentences difficult. You could ask the person to repeat a simple phrase such as ‘The car is blue’. Are they able to repeat the phrase correctly? If not, and their speech sounds strange and confused, this must be treated as a key warning sign of a stroke.
T: Time to Call
If you notice these signs and symptoms, or a combination of any of the three, call 9-1-1 immediately. It helps to take note of the time at which the first symptom appeared as this information impacts treatment options for the medical management of a stroke.
While the signs listed under the FAST acronym are the quickest way to spot the warning signs of a stroke, there are other accompanying signs and symptoms that must not be ignored. As mentioned above, it is important to note when the signs and symptoms begin as these guide the treatment options provided. These symptoms may appear separately, in combination or alongside those described above.
– Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes is also another symptom experienced before a stroke. This may range from blurred vision to blackened and double vision, all the while accompanied by confusion and trouble understanding simple symptoms.
– The sudden onset of a severe headache may be indicative of a stroke. This is sometimes accompanied by dizziness, vomiting and intermittent unconsciousness. Additionally, affected persons may experience loss of balance and coordination.
– In some cases, stroke patients may experience vertigo which is defined as the sensation that the environment around is spinning, and is often accompanied by dizziness.
In conclusion, some of the risk factors associated with a stroke include obesity, leading a sedentary lifestyle as well as the use of drugs. Medical risk factors include hypertension (high blood pressure), heart diseases, diabetes and high levels of cholesterol. Remember, FAST is the acronym that helps you spot warning signs of a stroke quickly.