A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities include speech, movement and memory. How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in America and the No. 1 cause of adult disability. Eighty percent of strokes are preventable; you can prevent a stroke!
Stroke Warning Signs
The American Stroke Association says these are the warning signs of stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs, don't delay! Immediately call 9-1-1. Also, check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared. It is very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you may have had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) or mini-stroke, consult your doctor immediately. If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test:
FACE - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
ARMS - Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
SPEECH - Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred? Can he/she repeat the sentence correctly?
TIME - If the person shows any of these symptoms, time is important.
Call 9-1-1 or get to the hospital immediately.