Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, with one occurring every 40 seconds on average. But what is a stroke exactly? Basically, when any part of the brain is blocked from receiving oxygen flow, cells begin to die. There are different types of stroke depending on how the blockage came to be. The most common type is an ischemic stroke, in which a blood clot interrupts blood flow. The rarer hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel bursts, causing blood leakage within the brain. A stroke can happen at any age and to anyone, but they tend to affect women more than men.
Successful stroke prevention and treatment is very time-restricted. That’s why it is vital to know the general signs of a possible incoming stroke. The major marker to watch out for is facial drooping, in which one side of the face might look lopsided and feel numb. Usually before a stroke happens, many people report a sudden, searing headache, unrelated to any other known causes. Such headaches may be accompanied by aura, like light flashes, tunnel vision, or hearing sounds that aren’t there. A person might have problems speaking, slurring their words. They might be extremely dizzy and lose control of their body's movements. Sometimes one or both eyes have an unexplained loss of vision. Learning to spot these signs of stroke can mean the difference between successful recovery or brain complications.
Although there are general signs of stroke, the symptoms manifest differently in everyone, especially depending on gender. The signs don’t change, but women are less likely to recognize an impending stroke. Many women tend to brush off weakness or confusion as something harmless, but it’s always better to be extra cautious. Some surprising symptoms are also something to watch out for, such as hiccups and chest pain. Even though chest pain along with difficulty breathing or increased heart rate are more heart-attack related, they can also hint at stroke. Women are more likely than men to feel or act abnormally before stroke, including increased agitation, anxiety, or restlessness. Furthermore, birth control pills can raise the risk of stroke because they make blood-clotting more frequent. Other risk factors for women include:
The good news is that 90% of risk of getting a stroke can be avoided and lessened. People who seek emergency medical help within 3 hours of recognizing stroke signs are less likely to experience negative after effects like disability. If you notice any sign of a stroke in yourself or others, no matter how innocent it seems, contact emergency medical services right away. There are specialized paramedics whose job is to transport possible stroke patients as fast as possible.
Before that happens, there are several things you can incorporate in your life to reduce your chances of getting a stroke. Usually, stroke is related to other conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, so by treating such conditions, you can avoid a stroke.
An overall healthier lifestyle is not to be underestimated in its ability to prevent stroke and help you live up to your full potential.