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In May, we celebrate National Stroke Awareness Month. Understanding the signs and symptoms of a stroke is key to acting fast and preventing permanent disability and/or death. Coincidently, acting fast is not only the thing you should do—it’s also the acronym used to spot someone having a stroke.
According to the American Stroke Association, the acronym F.A.S.T stands for facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties, and time to call 911. It’s very common for individuals experiencing stroke-like symptoms or suffering a stroke to not call 911 because they underestimate their symptoms. This is potentially dangerous, because the longer you wait to call for medical attention, the more likely you are to suffer permanent damage to your brain.
So, if you see someone exhibiting the symptoms of a stroke, act F.A.S.T and call 911 immediately.
Types of Stroke
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone experiences a stroke in the United States every 40 seconds, equating to nearly 800,000 people each year. The four types of strokes are:
- Ischemic—This type of stroke is the most common. It occurs when blood to the brain is blocked.
- Hemorrhagic—This kind of stroke occurs when an artery in the brain bursts and leaks out, placing too much pressure to the area. Individuals who have high blood pressure and aneurysms are at high risk of this type of stroke.
- Transient—Also known as a “mini-stroke,” this occurs when blood flow is blocked to the brain for less than five minutes. Typically, this type of stroke is a warning sign of a future stroke—so you should take it seriously and always call 911.
- Perinatal—This type of stroke occurs in developing babies still within a mother’s womb to 28 days after birth. A perinatal stroke results when oxygen is deprived causing a blood clot to form, or a hemorrhage that disrupts blood circulation.
Spotting Signs and Symptoms in Adults
Spotting signs and symptoms of a stroke is very important and, in many cases, can help save someone’s life—and possibly your own. Here’s what you should look for if an adult is experiencing stroke-like symptoms:
- Numbness on one side of the body (particularly the face, arm, or leg)
- Issues speaking and understanding others
- Blurred vision
- Feeling dizzy
- Severe headache
Spotting Signs and Symptoms in Infants
Recognizing a stroke when it comes to young and older adults can be a little easier identifying symptoms in infants. Babies are born with double the number of red blood cells, so they can absorb more oxygen in the womb, but the downside to this is that it causes their blood to be thicker. This means they are at a higher risk for developing a blood clot and/or experiencing a stroke. Dehydration, infections, and congenital defects can increase the risks of a perinatal stroke. Recognizing a perinatal stroke can be difficult, but here are a few signs:
- Abnormal tone
- Trouble feeding
- Hypotonia (decreased muscle tone)
- Apnea and/or respiratory issues
- Partial weakness on one side of the body
When it comes to your baby, finding the right care from the beginning of the journey is the first step, and there are many choices. Locally in San Antonio, the home of SWBC, we have one of the best Children’s hospitals in the nation, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio™, CHRISTUS Health. In a given year, the hospital treats over 5,000 inpatient care children, 80,000 emergency visits, and 73,000 outpatient visits. Overall, The Children’s Hospital is a great place to start your baby’s care and continues to offer state-of-the-art maternal fetal care.
Treatment and Recovery after a Stroke
Treatment begins as soon as medical emergency personnel arrives, which is why it is imperative to call 911. Medical professionals responding will be able to quickly diagnose the type of stroke, administer immediate and proper treatment, and get you or your loved one to the nearest hospital for further evaluation. They will also be able to provide critical treatments that, if administered within the first three hours of a stroke, have proven to be highly successful for a patient.
Recovery, on the other hand, is different for everyone and can take some time, depending on the severity of the stroke. Not everyone will experience the same outcome after treatment, so no two experiences will be the same. It may take a week, month, or even a year or longer to fully recover, but be patient—you’ll get there.
Life after a stroke can be a little different. Here are a few problems that might linger after stroke victims recover:
- Weakness or inability to move part(s) of body
- Memory issues
- Issues understanding speech and/or speaking
- Loss of expressing emotions
- Periodic numbness
- Complications while chewing and swallowing
- Issues controlling bladder and bowels
Life After a Stroke
Millions of Americans have survived a stroke, and now, with the latest medical treatments and proper rehabilitation, exercise, and support from family and friends, the recovery process can be a little easier. Our brain is a powerful thing, but we must take care of it, along with our mind, body, and soul to live a healthy life. Every person that suffers a stroke will recover differently with minimal to severe long-lasting effects, so it will depend on the type of stroke someone suffers and what measures were taken to seek medical attention.
Overall, many people live normal lives after a stroke, but may have to make lifestyle changes to prevent a future stroke. This can include incorporating rehabilitation services following a stroke and exercises to build strength. But, with the right tools, resources, support, and knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, you can begin a positive pathway toward recovery and normal life.
This material is provided for information only. It is not intended as medical advice. You should consult your healthcare provider or medical professional for specific advice about your medical situation.
Michael Leos is SWBC’s Community Relations Manager. He is responsible for managing the company’s volunteer initiatives and the company relationships and programs that bring employees together and promote SWBC’s core values throughout the community. Michael also oversees and writes the company’s internal political newsletter.