A stroke can happen instantly, but precautions can be taken
Stress can lead to compromised health
Merdies Hayes Managing Editor | 7/3/2020, midnight
In a flash, it comes out of nowhere. Your head hurts and you don’t know why. Your eyes water and vision is blurry. In short order, you feel nauseous, have some difficulty speaking, and possibly an arm or leg feels weaker.
Experts advise the simple but effective acronym F.A.S.T.: “Facial drooping,” “Arm weakness,” Speech difficulties” and, lastly, “Time.” Call 911 immediately when you see the signs, because “time lost is brain lost.”
While these early warning signs are not experienced by everyone, they are a clue that you’ve had a brain accident. There’s been an interruption of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Other indicators of a stroke may include sudden confusion, a loss of balance and coordination and, in some cases, sudden seizures.
Symptoms can pass quickly
Sometimes these symptoms pass quickly. Yet, they are important indicators that require immediate medical attention. The motto “time lost is brain lost” rings true to millions of persons each year who may experience warning signs of a stroke. The American Stroke Association (ASA) has reported that someone dies of a stroke every three to four minutes.
Sometimes these early symptoms may last only a few minutes and disappear. This type of brief episode is known as transient ischemic attack (TIA or “mini-stroke”). Neurologists say there is basically no way to tell whether the symptoms are from a mini-stroke or a major stroke. That is why prompt evaluation is so important within 60 minutes to identify the cause of the stroke and to determine appropriate therapy.
The ASA reports that 80 percent of strokes are the result of a clot (ischemic strokes), and the rest are likely due to bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). The warning signs, however, need not be accompanied by a panic attack, but they do require quick thinking. A stroke can impair the ability to speak or understand speech. Therefore, if you call 911 you may be asked to follow a brief exercise: Repeat the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If you are slurring the words, or using the wrong words or unable to speak at all, there is a significant chance that you’ve had a stroke.
Extremities can suddenly weaken
When a person is experiencing a stroke, it is common for an arm or leg (or both) to suddenly weaken, go numb, or become paralyzed. Often the affected limb(s) are on one the side of the body opposite from where the stroke occurred in the brain. Another tip is to extend both arms (palms up) for 10 seconds. If one arm drifts downward, that may also indicate muscle weakness which is a sign of s stroke. You should try to recline in a chair and—with both eyes open—lift each leg separately until they are parallel to the ground. If you can’t lift each leg one at a time, you may have had a stroke.
Most of the time all you may experience is a very bad headache. This is reportedly the most common stroke symptom. Also, there is the “droopy face” or sudden one-sided facial weakness. When paramedics arrive to treat a possible stroke victim, they will often ask a person to smile or show their teeth. If one side of the face sags or doesn’t move, that is usually a signal to EMTs that they are treating a stroke victim.
Race no indicator of stroke
Race is no indicator of stroke victims. However, some persons may be more susceptible than others. The American Heart Association (AHA) convenes a stroke statistics subcommittee which produces estimates and facts about stroke and other cardiovascular diseases in the United States. Their findings revealed that African-Americans represent 3.2 percent of stroke victims yearly. Each year, a reported 700,000 people suffer a stroke, according to data from the ASA. Further, 500,000 of those medical emergencies represent a person’s first brain attack. The remaining 200,000 are identified as repeat strokes.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes are believed by experts to be among the biggest health scourges for African-Americans. The AHA reports that Black people have the world’s highest rates of hypertension (high blood pressure). According to the latest medical research, African-Americans tend to carry a gene that makes them more salt sensitive, therefore increasing the risk for high blood pressure which can and does lead to stroke.
African-Americans are also disproportionately affected by obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that, among non-Hispanic Blacks 20 years and older, 63 percent of men and 77 percent of women are overweight or obese. Since obesity is often related to hypertension (resulting from an historically salty, fatty diet), being overweight can increase the risk of stroke.
Diabetes can contribute to stroke
Diabetes is a disease that African-Americans are reportedly more likely to have than non-Hispanic Whites. Medical experts have found that persistently elevated blood glucose levels contribute to the buildup of plaque (a pasty substance composed of cholesterol, calcium cellular waste and protein) that sticks to the walls of blood vessels and interferes with flood flow. This increases the chance of a blood clot and, potentially, can lead to a stroke.
There are several forms of a stroke, all of which fall under the risk factors of high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. The ASA reports that ischemic stroke accounts for about 87 percent of all strokes; the remaining 13 percent are hemorrhagic strokes. But there are other types. Men, for instance, are reportedly 61.5 percent more likely to suffer what is called a thrombotic stroke (a interruption of blood flow to a part of the brain due to slow formation of a blood clot), and are 23.5 percent more likely to suffer an embolic stroke (occurring when a blood clot or mass of cholesterol plaque wanders into the brain and becomes trapped inside an artery). The ASA says that thrombotic stroke accounts for roughly 59 percent of brain accidents in women, while cerebral embolus accounts for some 26.2 percent.
Most young people generally believe that strokes only happen to elderly people. That’s a dangerous myth. In 2016, the CDC reported that while it is true that as people age, the risk for stroke may increase. New research has indicated that there is an increasing number of stroke victims between the ages of 18 and 65 years, indicating that strokes are not rare within that age gap.
Stroke fourth leading cause of U.S. deaths
The CDC has revealed that more than 6 million Americans have had a stroke, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. But strokes are preventable. The Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, NY cited an International Stroke study from 2014 that revealed that 90 percent of strokes can be tied to vascular risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Experts contend that if you’re not able to contact medical personnel immediately after stroke symptoms appear, keep trying. Specifically, if it is a TIA stroke-and the symptoms last just a few minutes-heeding them early and getting treatment can save brain function and your life.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, in conjunction with the AHA, has established a stroke quality improvement initiative designed to make significant advances in stroke treatment. To date, Los Angeles County oper