I’ve recently met a few people, including those who have had a stroke, that did not know how to identify the warning signs of a stroke. Since February is American Heart Month, I thought this would be a good time to share with you a few facts on what stroke is and how to identify if someone is having one. Everyone should know this information because it could save someone’s life and prevent disability. Stroke is caused by a change in the blood flow in the brain, either by blood flow being restricted by a blockage, or by a blood vessel bursting or hemorrhaging. Either form of stroke, by a blocked vessel or burst vessel, can cause permanent brain damage and lasting disability. In fact, according to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the number 4 cause of death and disability in the United States. The longer blood flow is impaired in the brain by a stroke, the more damage can be done, damage that can possibly be irreversible. This is why it’s important to get a person who is having a stroke to the emergency room immediately so they can begin treatment as soon as possible.
- Abnormal or impaired walking
- Sudden severe headache
- Sudden dizziness
- Sudden numbness and tingling (usually on one side of the body)
- Facial drooping
- Sudden weakness in an arm or leg (usually on one side of the body)
- Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
- High blood pressure
- Smoking and Tobacco use
- Diabetes mellitus
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- High cholesterol or other lipids
- Physical inactivity
- End stage renal disease/ kidney disease
- Sleep apnea (( Roger, et.al. (2012). AHA Statistical Update: Executive Summary: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2012 Update:A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;125:188-197.))
- 7,000,000 Americans over the age of 20 have had a stroke
- Every 40 seconds someone in the US has a stroke
- Lifetime risk of stroke is higher for women than men with women having a 1 in 5 chance of having a stroke compared to 1 in 6 for men
- On average, every 4 minutes, someone dies from stroke
- Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the US
- The direct and indirect cost of stroke in the US in 2008 was estimated at $34.3 billion
Stroke can have lasting effects on a person’s ability to talk, work, do everyday tasks, walk, care for themselves, and return to certain recreation activities. Physical therapists work with a multidisciplinary therapy team that usually includes speech therapists, and occupational therapists. Physical therapists primarily work on walking, transitional movements such as getting out of a chair or bed, going up and down stairs, balance, coordination, and strength. Stroke can significantly affect a person’s perception of where their center of gravity is and PTs work diligently to help retrain the brain to relearn the correct balance point. Therapy after stroke can vary from person to person, for some it’s weeks, for others they have therapy for years and on and off for the rest of their lives. The more severe a stroke is, the chances are greater that the effects of the stroke will be lasting or permanent. Though, the severity of a person’s stroke can be reduced if they get treatment immediately. So if you think someone may be having a stroke, remember the National Stroke Association’s think FAST.
F (Face) : Look at the person’s face. Is it drooping? Ask them to smile. Is the smile symmetrical?
A (Arms): Ask them to raise their arms. Do they have difficulty raising one arm?
S (Speech): Ask them to speak a simple sentence. Do they make sense? Does it sound slurred or garbled?
T (Time): If they have any one of these signs, it’s time to call 911.
Want to know what it’s like to have a stroke? Join the over 7,658,464 views of Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk. She was lucky, not everyone is and had she not known the signs of a stroke, she probably wouldn’t be here to share her experience and continue her research.
- Roger, et.al. (2012). AHA Statistical Update: Executive Summary: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2012 Update:A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;125:188-197. [↩] [↩]