Signs of Having a Stroke
Focus on Prevention: Important reminder during Stroke Awareness Month
By Dr. Daniel Labovitz, medical director, Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care
Strokes happen suddenly. There’s never a convenient time to have a stroke. Coping with a stroke is very hard on both patients and their families/caretakers. What lifestyles changes will you make today to be healthier and lessen your risk of having a stroke?
At Montefiore alone, we treat over 1,400 stroke patients each year, making us the second busiest stroke center in the State. Approximately 800,000 people in the US will suffer a stroke this year. Many will survive, but a patient’s quality of life after stroke varies greatly depending on choices made before, during and after a stroke.
Montefiore’s outstanding stroke care has been recognized by an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center designation, meaning that the highest standards of lifesaving stroke care are close to home here in the Bronx.
So what exactly is a stroke?
A stroke is an injury to the brain that occurs in one of two ways:
1) When a blood clot blocks the blood vessels to the brain, depriving the brain of essential nutrients and oxygen.
2) When a blood vessel bursts in the brain, causing internal bleeding.
A stroke can cause life-changing disability and can result in paralysis, impaired speech or death if not treated quickly. With advances in treatment options, though, most stroke patients can go home after a stroke and some even completely recover.
To reduce your risk of having a stroke, consider your lifestyle choices and current health conditions. Can you make any changes?
Medical conditions that increase your risk of stroke include: hypertension (also known as high blood pressure), high cholesterol, diabetes, an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, and obesity.
Speak with your doctor about ways to control and manage these chronic conditions.
Other risk factors include tobacco and alcohol use, and not exercising daily. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day – this includes walking, running, taking the stairs and biking, just to name a few options. If you need help quitting smoking, speak with your doctor or call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).
Some risk factors we can’t control including: old age, a family history of stroke, black race and Hispanic ethnicity.
If you’ve already had a stroke, it’s even more important for you to make these important health and lifestyle changes. About one in four stroke survivors is at risk for having another stroke.
Now that we know ways to prevent a stroke, let’s cover the signs and symptoms of a stroke – just in case it happens to you or someone you’re with.
Despite the importance of early detection, more than two thirds of the U.S. population cannot recognize more than one warning sign of a stroke. Can you name the main signs of a stroke? Stroke symptoms come on suddenly, so here’s an easy way to remember the symptoms and what to do if you think you or someone else is having a stroke: remember to “BE FAST!”
– B – BALANCE – Look for any signs of sudden difficulty with balance or coordination.
– E – EYESIGHT – Ask the person has difficulty seeing, uneven vision and/or double vision.
– F – FACIAL WEAKNESS – Look for drooping on one side of the face and/or an uneven smile.
– A – ARM WEAKNESS – Look to see if one side of the body is weak and/or numb. Can the person lift their arms and keep both lifted?
– S – SPEECH DIFFICULTY – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase and listen for slurred words or difficulty.
– T – TIME SENSITIVE – If you or someone you’re with experiences any of these symptoms, BE FAST and call 9-1-1 immediately.
When it comes to treatment options for stroke, remember that every second counts. Don’t wait! Call 9-1-1 and take an ambulance to the hospital (do not drive!).
Stroke is the number five cause of death in the United States and is responsible for more than 140,000 deaths per year; this accounts for one in every 19 deaths.
Treatment options for stroke have advanced greatly – but lifesaving treatments are limited if you wait too long to seek care.
Stroke centers like Montefiore’s Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care have several types of specialists working together to provide the best possible treatments 24/7.
This May, we strongly encourage you to evaluate your lifestyle choices, meet with your doctor and set up a plan to achieving a healthier life.
To contact Montefiore’s Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, please call 718-920-6444.