stroke symptoms and risk management _ Mercy Health
Heart and Vascular

Stroke Awareness: Know the Warning Signs and Risk Factors

Nov 10 2017
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Knowing the stroke warning signs can help you get a loved one the care they need fast.

What would you do if someone you love experienced sudden numbness and weakness in the left side of their face?

Numbness and weakness of the face are common stroke warning signs. Stroke is the third most common cause of death among Americans. It’s also a leading cause of serious, long-term disability, so if you suspect a stroke, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room as soon as possible.

A stroke, or brain attack, happens when the brain’s blood supply is blocked by a blood clot or damaged vessel, which stops your brain from getting enough oxygen. Since the brain is the command center of the body, having a stroke can affect your ability to talk, walk, read, write, think and see.

Rapid diagnosis and treatment can minimize or even prevent the effects of a stroke. Unfortunately, people experiencing a stroke often do not recognize what is happening and delay medical treatment. That’s why it’s so important to know the signs and act quickly.

Risk Factors for Stroke

First, remember that the best time to treat a stroke is before it occurs. Your doctor can help control or treat risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and disorders of the heart, arteries and blood.

Other risk factors cannot be treated, but it is helpful to be aware of them:

  • Age: The risk of stroke increases with age, almost doubling during each decade of life after age 55.
  • Gender and race: Women, African Americans and Hispanic Americans have a higher risk.
  • Family history: People with a personal or family history of stroke are also at greater risk.

Stroke Warning Signs

It is important to learn the signs of a stroke so you can take immediate action in an emergency.

To recognize the signs of stroke, think FAST.

F stands for face

Ask the person to smile. If the person is experiencing a stroke, one side of the mouth may droop.

A stands for arms

Ask the person to raise both arms. Stroke will often cause one arm to drift downward.

S stands for speech

Ask the person to repeat a sentence. Stroke may cause speech to be slurred.

T stands for time

If you see signs of a possible stroke, immediately call 911 or take the person to the emergency room.

If stroke symptoms disappear suddenly, you should still seek emergency care. The person could be experiencing a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a “mini stroke,” caused by a temporary blockage to a blood vessel. About 15 percent of strokes are preceded by a TIA, and a person with a history of TIA is 10 times more likely to have a stroke than others of the same age and sex.

Knowing stroke warning signs is a great place to start. If you’re looking for more information, your doctor can provide a deeper analysis on your personal risk factors. If you would like to schedule an appointment with a doctor, reach out to the Mercy Health team today at 513-952-5000. To learn more about stroke care, read about the top stroke hospitals in Cincinnati.

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Claudia Mackendrick

I did learn a lot tonight. #4 under heart attack, I think this is what happened to me last week while out shopping. It came on suddenly as I got in the car. Super, super dizzy, then nauseated, then severe sweeting.
December 25th, 2017 | 10:57pm

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