Do you know how to spot the signs of stroke? If not, you should. According to stroke.org, every year 800,000 people experience these brain events, and the effects are devastating. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the #1 cause of adult disability. These events are so destructive because they often come on with little warning and can be difficult to detect as they occur. To make matters worse, brain damage increases exponentially if not treated right away.
Seniors are especially vulnerable. By some estimates, the stroke risk doubles with each decade of life after the age of 55. If you’re caring for an older adult, it’s important you know the risks and can recognize the signs so you can act immediately in the event of a stroke.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when blood flow is cut off to an area of the brain. Without that blood supply, brain cells quickly die and eventually the bodily functions controlled by the area of the brain are affected. The damage may be limited and temporary in a small event. But large events, can cause massive damage such as paralysis, loss of speech, or even death.
What are the Risk Factors?
As we discussed earlier, the risk of stroke grows by age, but race, gender, and family history also play a role. High blood pressure, heart disease, smoking, and obesity also increase your stroke risk. So as always, exercise and a low fat diet are excellent preventative measures.
Learn to Spot the Signs?
The impact of these events can be mitigated by early, aggressive medical treatment. As such, it’s important for caregivers to learn how to spot the signs of stroke early. The American Stroke Association has devised an acronym – F.A.S.T. – to help people recognize the physical symptoms of sudden brain damage. If you think someone is experiencing a stroke they recommend you watch for:
Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.
A patient has the best chance at survival if treated within three hours of the event, so act immediately if you see any of these signs.
While the statistics may seem scary, acting early can really make a difference. If you’re caring for a senior or know and love one, staying vigilant is a great way to show how much you care. For more information, visit strokeassociation.org or call the Stroke Helpline at 1 800 STROKES (787-6537).