Stroke Awareness

Is it a Stroke? Learn how to Recognize the Warning Signs

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States and a major cause of long-term disability in adults. But learning how to recognize early warning signs can help improve patient outcomes.

Strokes occur when there is reduced or a sudden loss of blood flow to the brain, often caused by a clot or when a blood vessel ruptures. When the brain is unable to get the blood and oxygen it needs, cells begin to die.

The effects of stroke are complex and depend on the area of the obstruction and how much of the tissue is affected. For example, if the stroke affects an area of the brain that controls speech, it may lead to slurred speech or trouble speaking.

Where the stroke occurs in the brain can also affect how your body responds. If a stroke occurs in the left side of the brain, the right side of the body is affected – and vice versa. Some common signs and symptoms are:

  • Left side of the brain: Paralysis of the right side of the body, impaired speech and language, visual field deficit, slower movements and behaviors, memory loss
  • Right side of the brain: Paralysis of the left side of the body, left neglect, visual field deficit, spatial problems, behavioral changes, memory loss

Your best weapon against stroke is to learn how to recognize the warning signs. An easy way to remember these signs is to use the acronym BE FAST:

  • B: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?
  • E: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
  • F: Does the person’s face look uneven or droopy?
  • A: Is one arm weak or numb?
  • S: Is the person’s speech slurred? Does the person have trouble speaking or seem confused?
  • T: Call 9-1-1 now.

If you or a loved one experiences any of these warning signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Every second counts and the faster you get to the hospital and receive treatment, the better the outcome.

Some people think the best thing to do is to drive themselves to the hospital. Don’t do it. Calling 9-1-1 can help you achieve a better outcome. That’s because when you call EMS, they alert the hospital right away. On the way to the hospital, they can maintain your heart rate and blood pressure as well as begin the assessment process. While you’re in transit, the hospital team will prepare to provide rapid treatment upon your arrival, which could be the difference between life and death or long-term disability.

Edward-Elmhurst Health helps patients experience better stroke outcomes. We are a comprehensive stroke center and our mission is to ensure all stroke patients get treatment as early as possible. Within minutes of a patient arriving at one of our emergency rooms, they are assessed by an acute stroke team. Our team is committed to providing exceptional care using a multifaceted approach of treatment, prevention and rehabilitation.

Learn more about your risk for stroke by taking our free online StrokeAware risk assessment. To find out what you can do to lower your risk for stroke, talk to a primary care provider. You can find one online or by calling 630-527-6363.