Warning signs of a stroke may vary depending on which area of the brain it has affected. A stroke is always accompanied by the occurrence of neurological disorders. The causes of these neurological disorders are usually blood clots, thrombosis, and vasoconstriction.
“Time is the brain” is a phrase that is often used by medical professionals in the context of a stroke, because every stroke is an emergency, which means that every minute counts! The quicker the first aid is provided to the victim, the higher are not only the chances of survival, but also successful rehabilitation.
In Ukraine, annually about 150,000 people survive a stroke, and about 50,000 of them do not survive. If there is a suspicion of a stroke, then the time factor plays the most important role. The more time elapses between the first signs and treatment, the more permanent brain damage can occur. A stroke in the right hemisphere usually means that the left side of the body is affected. Symptoms on the right side of the body indicate that the stroke occurred in the left hemisphere.
So how do you recognize a stroke:
- Complete or unilateral paralysis (hemiplegia and hemiparesis).
- Vision problems (double or blurred vision, limited field of vision, or even complete loss of vision).
- Dizziness and imbalance.
- Severe headache with possible side effects – nausea and vomiting.
- Speech and understanding disorder (from mild disorders to complete loss of speech ability).
- Lower eyelids and / or corners of the mouth.
- Very high blood pressure.
Using the FAST test (Face, Arm, Speech, Time), you can quickly detect a stroke:
- Face. Ask the person to smile if one part of the face sags, most likely a stroke has occurred.
- Arm. Ask the person to raise both hands, if one hand does not rise, most likely a stroke has occurred.
- Speech. Ask the person to repeat a few simple phrases if their tongue is tangled, most likely a stroke has occurred.
- Time. If you find at least one of the symptoms of a stroke, call an ambulance immediately.
Call an ambulance, even if you are not sure if this is a stroke. During a telephone conversation, mention a possible diagnosis, because stroke patients who arrive in the hospital within three hours and receive the necessary treatment have a significantly better chance of survival and rehabilitation.
What to inform the ambulance and how to behave before her arrival?
Inform the emergency department of the following:
- What is a suspected stroke.
- Provide the person’s address or detailed location.
- Give your name.
- Provide a phone number for a possible call back.
- Do not hang up until the call is accepted.
Before the ambulance arrives, try to control the vital functions of a person:
- Touch response.
- Breath. If not, do artificial respiration twice. Check your breath again and watch for coughing or movements.
If the victim is conscious, place him in a comfortable position with his upper body raised.
What else is worth paying attention to:
- Loosen tight clothing (belt, collar, tie).
- Do not give the victim any fluids or medicine, as this can lead to dysphagia.
- Try to calmly talk with the victim, if he is conscious, and not to panic.
- Open the windows.
- Keep your airways clean and, if possible, remove food debris or dentures.
Upon arrival of the rescue service, try to inform them as briefly as possible about the observed symptoms, the time of the onset of the first symptoms and possible pre-existing diseases of the victim, if you have such information. If possible, give the ambulance a list of medicines that a person takes regularly.
If you are two or more, then send a second person to the street so that he can meet and inform the rescue service along the way.
How to avoid a stroke: preventative measures
Here are seven steps you can take today to avoid a stroke.
Lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major cause of stroke risk in men and women. Make sure that the pressure does not exceed 135/85.
- Reduce the amount of salt in your diet to 1,500 mg per day (about half a teaspoon).
- Avoid foods high in cholesterol – hamburgers, cheese and ice cream.
- Eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, one serving of fish two to three times a week, as well as several servings of whole grains and low-fat dairy products per day.
- Work out at least 30 minutes a day.
- Stop smoking.
- If necessary, take medicines that lower your blood pressure.
Obesity, as well as related complications (including high blood pressure and diabetes), increase your chances of a stroke. Try to consume no more than 1500-2000 calories per day (depending on the level of your activity and current BMI), and also increase the amount of exercises that you perform daily.
Lead an active lifestyle
Exercise contributes to weight loss and lowering blood pressure, but is also an independent method to reduce the risk of stroke. Your goal: play sports with moderate intensity for at least five days a week. Start with a simple one, for example, daily walks after breakfast or stairs, instead of using the elevator.
Limit your alcohol intake
Refusing or drinking a small amount of alcohol can reduce the risk of stroke. Studies show that as you start drinking more than two alcoholic drinks per day, the risk of stroke increases dramatically.
High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels over time, increasing the likelihood of clots forming inside them. Use diet, exercise, and medicine to keep your blood sugar in the recommended range.
Smoking accelerates the formation of clots, increasing the amount of plaque in the arteries. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, smoking cessation is one of the most important lifestyle changes that can help you significantly reduce your risk of stroke.
Stroke Facts & Figures
- About 70% of patients who experience temporary cerebrovascular accidents (TIAs, transient ischemic attacks) or “minor seizures” do not recognize them.
- 30% of patients postpone medical examination for more than 24 hours and underestimate the importance of first aid.
- According to the WHO (World Health Organization), stroke is the leading cause of death for people over 60.
- Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 59 years.
- Even children and newborns can suffer a stroke.
- According to ÄrzteZeitung, a new stroke occurs every three minutes only in Germany, and one patient with a stroke dies every nine minutes.
- About 70% of strokes can be prevented by preventive measures.