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Make Spotting Stroke Signs and Symptoms Your Superpower
General Wellness

Make Spotting Stroke Signs and Symptoms Your Superpower

By Your Health Staff
Posted: May 29, 2024

Knowledge is power. That cliché is especially true when recognizing stroke signs and symptoms.

Knowing these warning signs gives you the power to help yourself and others. If you were to experience a stroke, understanding what one looks and feels like could be the key to becoming a stroke survivor. Observe National Stroke Awareness Month in May by learning how to spot a stroke.

“Time lost is brain lost,” says Dr. Balaji Krishnaiah. “In most cases, a stroke cuts blood flow to part of the brain, depriving brain cells of the oxygen they need to survive. The sooner you seek stroke care, the sooner clinicians can restore blood flow, reducing your risk of significant brain damage. Recognizing when a stroke is happening gives you an advantage in the race to save your brain because you’ll know right away a stroke is occurring and can seek help immediately.”

BE FAST When Facing Stroke Signs and Symptoms

In the U.S., a stroke occurs every 40 seconds. No two strokes look the same — and women may experience different symptoms than men. In most cases, symptoms occur suddenly, so be ready to recognize what’s happening and react quickly.

There’s an easy way to remember the warning signs of a stroke and what to do if they occur: BE FAST

B for Balance

“Sudden difficulty maintaining balance or coordination may be a clue a stroke is occurring,” Dr. Krishnaiah says. “A person may report feeling dizzy out of the blue, or they may have trouble walking. Those are concerning signs that deserve immediate medical attention.”

E Is for Eyes

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, both sides of your brain contribute to vision, so no matter which side a stroke affects, eyesight problems are possible. These problems may include blurred vision, double vision or vision loss.

F Is for Face Drooping

If you suspect a person is having a stroke, look closely at their face. A stroke can cause numbness or weakness on one side of the body, including the face. If one side of the face is affected, the eyelid, cheek, and mouth may droop. Does one side of the person’s mouth turn downward when you ask them to smile? If so, that’s an indicator of a potential stroke.

A Is for Arm Weakness

“In addition to the smile test, the arm test can provide a clue as to whether a stroke is occurring,” Dr. Krishnaiah says. “Have the person raise both arms and see if they stay the same height. If one arm sinks downward, that may indicate numbness or weakness in the limb, a sign of a stroke.”

S Is for Speech Difficulty

Someone having a stroke may suddenly find it difficult or impossible to speak. To the listener, their speech may be unintelligible or slurred. If they can’t repeat a short, simple sentence or comprehend it, that’s a red flag.

T Is for Time to Call 911

If you notice any stroke signs or symptoms, call 911.

“For the most common kind of stroke, clinicians can deliver a medication through an IV to break up a blood clot that’s stopping blood from reaching part of the brain,” Dr. Krishnaiah says. “This can increase your chances of recovery. However, patients are only eligible for this medication within three to four and a half hours after stroke symptoms begin. That’s why quickly recognizing a stroke in progress and calling for help immediately is so powerful.”


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Different Strokes:
Ischemic vs. Hemorrhagic vs. TIA

Stroke signs and symptoms don’t provide many clues as to which of the two main types of strokes — ischemic or hemorrhagic— is occurring. Both can present the same warning signs, which is another reason to take symptoms seriously and seek help immediately. Doing so allows clinicians to run tests and discover what’s happening faster. Knowing the type of stroke occurring helps determine the most appropriate form of treatment. 

  • An ischemic stroke — the most common kind of stroke — occurs when a blood clot or plaque blocks an artery carrying blood to part of the brain.
  • Far less common than ischemic stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery in the brain leaks or bursts, raising pressure in the skull and harming brain cells.
  • TIA, like an ischemic stroke, is when a clot stops blood from reaching part of the brain, but with a critical difference: it usually breaks up on its own. As a result, symptoms typically last less than five minutes, according to the American Stroke Association. Despite transient symptoms, TIA is a warning sign that a full-blown stroke is impending. You must get immediate medical attention even if the stroke-like symptoms are transient. 

Recognize Your Risk

Knowing which factors increase your risk of stroke and working to change them can reduce your chances of experiencing stroke signs and symptoms. The best place to start is by managing chronic health conditions that can contribute to stroke.

“Unfortunately, we see many patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes, all of which are major risk factors for stroke,” Dr. Krishnaiah says. “Working with your primary care provider or the appropriate specialists to control these conditions is important. That’s also true of atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heart rhythm that can greatly increase your risk of an ischemic stroke.”

Make changes to your lifestyle to support a healthy cardiovascular system, including:

  • Exercise regularly and work up to completing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources in your diet. Minimize processed foods and foods with added sugars and trans fats.
  • Manage stress by devoting time each day to an enjoyable or relaxing activity.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Life’s Essential 8 are vital to improving cardiovascular health.

Are you looking to reduce your stroke risk or return to health following a stroke? Find a clinician with the Methodist Neuroscience Institute team who can help.

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