Strokes are a serious medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either by a blood clot or a burst blood vessel. This can cause lasting damage to the brain and lead to permanent disability. Strokes are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, but the good news is that there are early warning signs that can help you identify a stroke and take life-saving action.
In this blog post, we will explore the early symptoms of a stroke and the actions you can take to minimize the damage.
The early symptoms of a stroke
Strokes can happen suddenly or develop over time, and the symptoms can vary depending on the severity and location of the stroke. However, there are several common signs of a stroke that you should be aware of, including:
Numbness or weakness — especially on one side of the body
This can include the face, arm, or leg.
Trouble speaking or understanding language
You may slur your words, have difficulty finding the right words, or not be able to speak at all.
You may have blurry or double vision, or you may see flashes of light or lose vision in one eye.
Dizziness or loss of balance
You may feel like you’re spinning or lightheaded, or you may have trouble standing or walking.
This may come on suddenly and be accompanied by vomiting, dizziness, or difficulty speaking.
Life-saving actions to take
If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, the following actions can minimize the damage caused by a stroke.
Call for emergency medical assistance
Time is of the essence when it comes to treating a stroke, and every minute counts.
Panic can make the situation worse, so try to stay as calm as possible.
Do not give food or drink
It’s important to avoid giving the person anything to eat or drink to prevent choking or other complications.
Loosen tight clothing, such as a tie or belt to make it easier for them to breathe.
Position the person
If they are unconscious or having difficulty breathing, you may need to help them into a comfortable position. However, do not move them if you suspect they have a spinal injury.
Preventing a stroke
While some risk factors for stroke, such as age and family history, cannot be changed, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of having a stroke. These include:
Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure is the biggest contributor to the risk of stroke, so it’s important to keep your blood pressure under control. You can do this by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet low in salt and saturated fats, and exercising regularly. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend medication to help lower it.
Smoking increases your risk of stroke, as it damages the blood vessels and increases the formation of blood clots. Smoking cessation is one of the most powerful lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of stroke. Your doctor can recommend strategies and resources to help you quit smoking.
Regular physical activity stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer. It helps reduce your risk of stroke by improving your overall health and reducing your risk of conditions that contribute to stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Aim for moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, per week.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy meal and snack option, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce your risk of stroke. Avoid consuming foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugars.
Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure, raising your odds of having a stroke. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Diabetes damages blood vessels over time and increases your risk of stroke. So it’s important to take medication as prescribed by your doctor, monitor your blood sugar levels, and make lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
The bottom line
A stroke can happen suddenly and is unpredictable. A person could be speaking and laughing one minute and unable to speak or stand up by themselves the next. If you suspect that a loved one is having a stroke, call for medical assistance right away to ensure that they receive treatment at a hospital within 3 hours of their symptoms first appearing.
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