Medically Reviewed by
Deborah L. Kirby, MD
A stroke occurs in one of two cases. In the first, blood is blocked from going to the brain by a clot that plugs an artery carrying oxygenated blood to the brain. In the second, an artery in the brain bursts creating pressure on the brain.
“A number of vascular health issues affect how the blood flows, which creates a greater risk of stroke,” says McLeod Neurologist, Dr. Deborah Kirby.
Smoking is a singularly bad risk. Even if you have no other risk factors, smoking independently increases your danger of a stroke. Quitting smoking is a single, conscious decision that can significantly lower your stroke risk.
A woman with migraines, taking HRT and smoking, puts herself at significantly increased risk. Talk to your gynecologist about alternatives to hormone replacement or treatment for migraines.
SPOTTING THE SIGNS
Use the acronym FAST, which stands for Face, Arm, Speech and Time.
In the mirror, you see that your Face is weak on one side or droops.
Your Arm feels heavy or suddenly goes numb. Slurred Speech, difficulty in speaking, problems thinking of words or speech that comes out as gibberish are all signs.
An acute stroke hits with a sudden onset of symptoms. It’s serious and can progress quickly to weakness or blindness on one side, or total language problems.
TREATING YOUR STROKE
Call 911 and go to the hospital immediately for evaluation of your stroke. Even if the symptoms disappear after a short time, you need to be seen, because having a mini-stroke (also called a Transient Ischemic Attack or TIA) means you are at increased risk for stroke.
At the hospital, you’ll have a CT scan, blood work and a physical examination. This will determine whether you need one of several treatments.
ACTION TO TAKE
If you feel you are starting to have a stroke, call 911. Don’t try to drive yourself. The “T” in FAST is Time. The faster you receive treatment the greater the chance that physicians can limit the damage and return you to everyday activities.