Stroke, commonly called as a brain attack, is one of the leading causes of death and disabilities in most of the countries. Detecting stroke is very important in order to prevent long term brain damage. One might ask, whether it is possible to feel a stroke coming on? Yes, stroke does show initial symptoms, which if recognized early, immediate treatment can be given.
Stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is suddenly cut off, due to a blocked artery supplying to the brain. This results in brain cells getting deprived of nutrients and oxygen leading to brain damage. If the blood supply is disrupted for a long time, it can cause more damage, while if the early symptoms are recognized in time, the damage can be minimized with prompt treatment.
While stroke is seen more in the aging population, it can occur at any time and to anyone. Stroke can affect the brain and cause long lasting damage to the entire body, which include difficulty in thinking, speaking, memory and other functions. Emotional problems, pain, numbness, weakness or paralysis can also be seen.
Educating about the warning signs of stroke can help in detecting stroke and receiving emergency treatment.
Stroke can be detected from the early signs that are often the warning signals. For detecting stroke, the FAST test can give an idea of the impending symptoms of stroke.
The common signs and symptoms of stroke appear suddenly and include-
- Numb or weak feeling in the face, hands, arms or legs, more commonly on one side of the body.
- Sudden vision difficulties, inability to view or read properly with one or both eyes.
- Confusion, slurred speech, difficulty in speaking, responding or sudden inability to understand things.
- Difficulty in walking, trouble with co-ordinated activities of hands and legs, dizziness or even loss of balance.
- Severe headache appearing suddenly and arising without any known cause.
Can You Feel A Stroke Coming On?
Stroke is emergency, so one needs to ACT FAST.
F – Face
Note any changes in the face, particularly one side of the face. Note for any drooping when the person attempts to smile. Any weakness, numbness or changes in the appearance of the face, when making facial movements can occur due to a stroke.
A – Arms
Look out for changes in the arms, hands and legs. Note if the person is able to lift both arms upwards, without dropping the hands. Any sudden weakness or inability to move hands or legs should catch attention.
S – Speech
Changes in speech may be obvious when the person speaks. On attempting to speak a sentence or repeat a phrase, there may be slurring of speech or speech may be different than usual. If there is a doubt about a person’s speech, ask them to repeat a phrase and talk.
T – Time
When any of these symptoms are noted, check the time and begin acting. Stroke, being an emergency condition, one needs to act in time. If any of the above mentioned signs and symptoms or warning signals are noted, the emergency medical services should be called immediately, without wasting any more time. In case, such symptoms are noted, which seem to have gone after some time, even then it is necessary to call the emergency, as immediate hospitalization can help to prevent brain damage.
If you think, it is stroke and someone shows any of these symptoms, call emergency.
People with a previous history of stroke, with family history, those having diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and an irregular heartbeat are at an increased risk of having stroke. It is necessary to maintain healthy habits and treat underlying disorders in order to reduce the risk of stroke.
Following a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent stroke. Keep blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol within normal limits. Take necessary medications and monitor regularly. Quit smoking, limit alcohol consumption, maintain an ideal weight, exercise regularly and eat healthy food that include whole grains, vegetables and fruits and limit intake of salt, sugars and fats.
Detecting Stroke and Preventing Damage
Attempting to prevent stroke can be done with preventive measures, however, when there is a slightest possibility that a person is having stroke, remember FAST. If these signals appear, seek immediate medical care; note the time and report the same, as it can help in making treatment decisions.
Emergency medication that help to dissolve the clot in the blood vessel and improve blood flow to the brain need to be administered at the earliest. Some studies have shown that patients having stroke, who received immediate treatment within three hours from initiation of symptoms, had chances of recovering without any or minimal disability after 3 months.
Use FAST (Face, Arms, Speech, Time), an easy way to remember the warning signals of stroke and call emergency. Immediate hospitalization and emergency medical care can help a person recover from stroke without any long standing damage to the brain. Getting timely treatment can help in better recovery.
- New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM): Article: “Thrombectomy for Stroke at 6 to 16 Hours with Selection by Perfusion Imaging” DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1713973
- Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA): Article: “Effect of Treatment Delay, Age, and Stroke Severity on the Effects of Intravenous Thrombolysis with Alteplase for Acute Ischemic Stroke” DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.119.014221
- International Journal of Stroke (IJS): Article: “Feasibility and safety of transcatheter cerebral embolic protection during transcatheter aortic valve implantation” DOI: 10.1177/1747493018759165
- Stroke and Vascular Neurology (SVN): Article: “Epidemiology of stroke in India” DOI: 10.1136/svn-2018-000158
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