Today is World Stroke Day, did you know? More alarmingly – did you know almost 800,000 people suffer from strokes EVERY year?! Do you know the signs of a stroke and what to do? Let’s discuss because these very well could save your life or someone around you. With a stroke, timing is EVERYTHING and the easiest way to save a life.
Strokes kill about 140,000 people every year. That’s roughly 1 in 20 deaths are due to strokes. Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke. (CDC, 2019).
I don’t say these things to scare you necessarily, but I hope it scares you enough to learn what to do in the case of a stroke and how to recognize one.
Although someone’s predisposition to having a stroke can be layered in their genetics, race, ethnicity, gender, and age, there are SO MANY things we can take charge of in our daily lives and habits that decrease our chances of having one. (nhlbi, 2019).
- Smoking. Smoking makes you twice as likely to die if you have a stroke, and causes a cascade of events in your body that incline you towards having a stroke.
- High blood pressure. Not only does high blood pressure harm your kidneys and place you at risk for eventual kidney failure, it harms your heart by making it work much harder than it should to pump blood out to your body. Your heart is a muscle and will eventually tire from all the work. It is also the number one predisposing risk factor for developing a stroke.
- Diabetes. Diabetes is an ugly, ugly disease that wreaks havoc on a multitude of body systems and processes. Diabetes type 2 is not something you want to eventually develop. SO.. mind your diet, take care of your body, get some exercise.. you get the picture. Plus the cost of insulin in this country is ridiculous. Save your body, and your wallet.
- Obesity. Again, obesity is a huge indicator in the development of diabetes type 2, as well as other comorbid conditions.
- Lack of physical activity. This is a big one and something I personally need to be better at because I totally fell off the wagon. But imagine your arteries and vessels like a pipe or drain to your sink. Eventually they get lined with gunk just from using soap and brushing your teeth with toothpaste. BUT add in some things that attract more gunk – like globs of hair. That hair grabs onto more passing gunk and eventually forms a clog in the pipe – backing up your sink. The same thing happens in your arteries and veins. The fats and bad things that we eat love to line our vessels and stick onto each other. Eventually it completes obstructs the vessel and depending where that happens, it could be a heart attack, a stroke in the brain, or a clot in the leg. Sometimes we have little clots that break off from inside the vessel and travel to places they’re not supposed to be – like a clot in the lung or brain. Those clots are deadly.
- Alcohol and drug use. It’s a no brainer that repeated use of large amounts of alcohol are harmful to the body. It hurts more than your liver, fyi. Drug use also destroys multiple parts of the body – including eating away at the valves in your heart. So avoid drug use and save yourself multiple thousands of dollars in valve replacements and a possible lifetime of corresponding medications.
- Stress and depression. This one freaks me out of a little because of my own battle with depression. There are so many studies out there about the links between stress, mental illness, and the development of actual physical diseases. Life is stressful to say the least, but we can try to practice self-care and do what we’re able to destress ourselves.
Think F.A.S.T. – Recognize the symptoms of a Stroke
F – Facial droop
Facial droops are pretty noticeable – especially when they’re very suddenly different. Ask them to smile and see if one side droops or doesn’t move like the other side. Although it could be something benign like Bell’s Palsy – you MUST have it immediately checked out by a physician! Also be on the lookout for sudden changes in vision like blurriness, sudden SEVERE headaches that are unlike any they’ve ever had, dizziness or confusion.
A – Arm drifts.
Imagine asking some to hold their arms out in front of them like they are holding up two pies. Does one arm start to drift in a different direction? They could also have trouble walking, balancing, weakness in one side of the body, or numbness in their hands, legs, arms, or face.
S – Speech slurs.
Changes in speech could range from difficulty understanding them, their inability to understand you, slurred speech or the inability to speak.
T – Time is CRITICAL.
When it comes to a stroke, time is EVERYTHING. The sooner they get emergency help, the better likelihood they can be treated. Patients can sometimes be treated with a “clot-busting” medication called TPA – but it’s only within a certain amount of hours between when the symptoms first started and how much time has gone by. Think of it as time lost=brain lost. The sooner they see a physician, the better the odds! Never ever ever hesitate to call 911 if you suspect a stroke! (and try to remember when the symptoms first started, the doctor and stroke team will want to know!)