Signs of a Stroke and How to Prevent One

There are many types of stroke emergencies that occur when the brain does not get enough oxygen. Stokes are caused by many different factors and, therefore, they can present differently from patient to patient.

Stroke symptoms may range from the subtle to the obvious. Individuals who are having a stroke may not always show the classic signs, like facial drooping or difficulty speaking. Signs of a stroke in men may also be different than signs for women. Knowing what to look for can save precious minutes for getting yourself or someone else the treatment he or she needs.   

There are certain factors that place individuals at a higher risk of developing a stroke. However, stroke prevention is possible through a wide array of lifestyle changes. Learn more about how to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and prevent it in the following sections.

Common Stroke Symptoms

Stroke symptoms depend on a number of factors. Sometimes, a stroke develops gradually with a slow onset of subtle symptoms. Other times, it presents out of nowhere with extremely noticeable symptoms.

The most common symptoms of stroke are facial numbness or droopiness, muscle weakness and slurred speech. These symptoms are easy to recognize during a short conversation or visual observation.

If you suspect yourself or someone you know may be having a stroke, remember the acronym FAST:

  • Face – smile and see if one side of the mouth droops or stays still
  • Arms – raise the arms and watch to see if one arm falls
  • Speech – say a short sentence and listen for slurs, delays or mumbles
  • Time – call 911 immediately and record the time that the symptoms began

Signs of a stroke in men include the above symptoms in addition to a few others. Some men may experience stomach pain and nausea, fatigue and confusion. Loss of balance and coordination are also common during strokes.

Signs of a stroke in women tend to be more unique symptoms, such as hallucinations, sudden behavioral changes, shortness of breath and seizures. This can make it more difficult for others to pinpoint the cause as a stroke.

Learn About Stroke Treatment Options

Stroke treatment options vary depending on a person’s symptoms and the type of stroke they are having. There are two main types of strokes: ischemic, which is the most common stroke type, and hemorrhagic.

During an ischemic stroke, blood flow to the brain is blocked by some sort of clot. The clot can form in an artery (thrombotic) or elsewhere in the body (embolic). During a hemorrhagic stroke, a weak blood vessel suddenly bursts and bleeds into the brain.

To treat an ischemic stroke, doctors must first restore blood flow to the brain. This can be done with a tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which is a clot-busting drug designed to break up clots.

Other treatment options include surgical procedures where doctors can deliver medication directly to the clot by using a catheter. Additionally, a stent is sometimes necessary to open collapsed arteries if just treating the clot is not enough.

Stroke treatment options for hemorrhagic strokes are a bit different. Since there is a direct brain bleed, doctors must relieve the pressure with certain types of medications. If the bleed was rather large, surgery may be necessary to remove excess blood and repair broken blood vessels.

After a stroke, many patients enter rehabilitation to recover as much function as possible. Some stroke patients will be more mobile, while others may have extremely limited mobility, particularly on the side of the body the stroke symptoms manifested in.

Many stroke victims must learn how to walk, talk, swallow and even breathe on their own again. Doctors are responsible for suggesting a therapy program ideal for a patient’s age, overall health and degree of functionality loss.  

Stroke Prevention Tips

Stroke prevention is possible, regardless of family history and genetics. There are many ways to reduce the risk of stroke, including making important lifestyle changes.

Tip 1: Lower Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for strokes. In fact, it can quadruple a person’s chance of having a stroke. Most adults should aim to maintain a blood pressure of less than 140/90. Those with elevated levels should get into the habit of monitoring and tracking their blood pressure.

To lower blood pressure, avoid high-cholesterol foods, try and a lower sodium intake and increase your activity levels.

Tip 2: Exercise More

Staying active can help a person lose weight and achieve lower blood pressure levels. To reduce the risk for a stroke, individuals should aim to get at least four to five days of moderate physical activity each week. They can walk around the block, go for a jog or join a gym and develop a routine.

Tip 3: Lose Weight

Obesity is another high-risk factor for strokes. Stroke prevention must include a weight loss regimen, especially for those who are obese or at risk of becoming obese. Before losing weight, it is important to consult a doctor or nutritionist to discuss weight loss goals. He or she will determine an appropriate and safe diet and exercise plan.

Tip 4: Quit Smoking

Did you know that smoking encourages clot formation? Smokers have a much higher risk for having a stroke due to the increased amount of plaque buildup in their arteries. Quitting smoking can impact your life in more ways than one, like lowering blood pressure, improving lung function and decreasing plaque. Certain medications and patches can help you quit and stay away from cigarettes.

Tip 5: Moderate Your Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol can increase one’s risk for a stroke. Those who drink should practice moderation. Doctors recommend no more than one alcoholic drink per day. Red wine, however, is considered one of the best alcoholic drinks out there due to its positive effect on the heart and the brain. Also, be mindful of serving sizes when pouring glasses.

Keep all these health tips in mind to reduce your risk of a stroke.