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The Signs of a Stroke. By Our August Student Pharmacist, Ben Coles.

In the United States, a stroke happens every 40 seconds, which equates to nearly 800,000 people experiencing a stroke every year. Strokes are not only the fifth leading cause of death in the US, but they are also the leading cause of disability. Although one out of every six strokes leads to death, 80% can be prevented. While it may be very frightening to experience a stroke, watching someone experience a stroke can also be upsetting. It is imperative to not only know what a stroke is, but also what the warning signs are.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is essentially a “brain attack”. A stroke occurs when blood flow is shut off to a section of the brain and can happen to anyone at any time. Just like all of our other organs, our brain has blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients. These blood vessels can become blocked with a clot or burst and then that part of the brain will no longer receive oxygen and nutrients and will die.

How a person is affected by a stroke depends on how much and the part of the brain that is affected. For someone who has suffered a small stroke or “mini-stroke”, they might have temporary weakness of an arm or leg. For larger strokes, the weakness would be long-term and more serious even to the point of partial paralysis.

There are three basic types of strokes and they are all treated differently.

Three types of strokes:

  1. Hemorrhagic stroke—a stroke caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain which results in bleeding within the brain.
  2. Ischemic stroke—a stroke caused by a blood vessel being blocked by a clot.
  3. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)—when blood flow stops to a part of the brain for a short period of time; also called a “mini-stroke”.


Stroke Signs:

The most important things to know about strokes are the warning signs. It is vital to know not only for yourself, but also for your loved ones.

If you think you or someone you are with is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Above is an infographic that spells out the stroke signs in the acronym FAST.

  1. Face-facial drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  2. Arms-arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  3. Speech-speech difficulty. Is speech slurred? Is the person hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  4. Time-time to call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Even if the symptoms go away, you need to get the person to the hospital.

Beyond the acronym of FAST, there are some other signs you can look for.

  • Sudden NUMBNESS
  • Sudden CONFUSION

Since strokes happen in different parts of the brain, each person may experience a unique set of stroke symptoms. It is important to be familiar with all of the stroke symptoms to best protect yourself and your loved ones.

Remember, if someone shows ANY of the stroke signs, it is important to call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately! Remember the acronym FAST! Strokes can be a scary situation for all parties involved, but it is important to remember these stroke signs and know when to get the person to the hospital.

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