Strokes are one of the leading causes of disability and death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stroke is the second leading cause of death globally, accounting for approximately 11% of all deaths. In the United States alone, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, and someone dies from a stroke every four minutes.
Despite the severity of this condition, many people are unaware of the warning signs of a stroke. Knowing how to identify the symptoms of a stroke and seeking medical attention immediately can make a significant difference in a person’s chance of survival and recovery.
Here are five ways to know you’re having a stroke:
- Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of your body
The sudden onset of numbness or weakness on one side of the body is one of the most common symptoms of a stroke. This may manifest as a drooping face, arm weakness, or difficulty walking. The weakness or numbness may also affect the leg and result in a loss of balance and coordination.
If you or someone you know experiences sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately. A stroke can cause permanent brain damage if not treated promptly.
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
Strokes can affect a person’s ability to speak and comprehend language. If you or someone you know suddenly has trouble speaking, slurs words, or has difficulty understanding what others are saying, this could be a sign of a stroke.
- Sudden vision changes
A stroke can affect a person’s vision and cause sudden changes, such as blurred or double vision. In some cases, a person may lose vision in one or both eyes. If you experience sudden changes in your vision, seek medical attention immediately.
- Sudden and severe headache
A sudden and severe headache is another warning sign of a stroke. This headache is often described as the worst headache of a person’s life and may be accompanied by dizziness or vomiting. If you or someone you know experiences a sudden and severe headache, seek medical attention immediately.
- Trouble walking or loss of coordination
A stroke can cause a person to lose their balance and coordination, making it difficult to walk or move normally. If you or someone you know suddenly has trouble walking or loses coordination, seek medical attention immediately.
In addition to these five warning signs, other symptoms of a stroke include:
- Confusion, trouble understanding or speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of consciousness or sudden collapse
It’s important to remember that not all strokes present with the same symptoms. Some people may experience only one or two of these warning signs, while others may experience all of them. If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Preventing a Stroke
While some risk factors for a stroke, such as age and family history, cannot be controlled, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of having a stroke. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet that is low in salt, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Additionally, if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, it’s essential to manage these conditions with medication and regular check-ups with your healthcare provider.
Strokes are a serious medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Knowing the warning signs of a stroke and seeking medical attention immediately can make a significant difference in a person’s chance of survival and recovery. If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms listed above, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Remember, every second counts when it comes to a stroke.