J. Ivan Lopez, MD, FAAN
Director of the Stroke Center, Renown Institute for Neurosciences
Recognizing a stroke early and receiving treatment quickly greatly improves recovery for stroke patients. It is important to know and understand how to recognize a stroke – it could save a life.
The most common signs and symptoms of stroke are:
- Sudden weakness in the arm or leg on one side of the body
- Sudden numbness on one side of the body
- Similar numbness or weakness, sometimes described as “drooping”, on one side of the face
- Sudden difficulty with speech which could involve slurring or the inability to produce the correct words
- Sudden vision problems such as seeing double or only half, or blindness in one eye
- Sudden difficulty understanding what others are saying, often interpreted as “confusion”
Each of these individual symptoms may occur independently or in any combination with the others.
The good news is that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. There are several things you can do to reduce your personal risk of stroke, including controllinghigh blood pressure, managing diabetes, lowering blood cholesterol levels and not smoking.
If you have hypertension (elevated blood pressure), diabetes, a high cholesterol level or a heart condition such as atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) that increases your risk of stroke, it is important to work closely with your doctor to ensure that the risk factor is being adequately treated.
Most importantly – if you smoke, quit now! If you are obese or overweight, begin a diet and exercise program that is appropriate for your age and general health. Even if you’re not obese, regular aerobic exercise will improve your general health and heart performance as it lowers your risk of suffering a disabling stroke.
Unfortunately, there are also risk factors that are out of our control, most notably age. Each decade after age 40, the risk of stroke roughly doubles. Other non-modifiable risk factors include family history (some diseases run in families) and your own personal health history – once you have had a stroke you are at increased risk of having another.
It’s easier than you think to recognize a stroke F.A.S.T.
- Face: Does one side of the face seem have fallen or droop? Can they smile?
- Arms: Are they able to raise both arms and keep them there?
- Speech: Is their speech slurred?
- Time: Time to call 9-1-1 immediately if you notice any one of these symptoms.