Dapper old man smiling.

Understanding the Risks & Warning Signs of Stroke

Did you know? Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. That’s more than 795,000 Americans who have a stroke each year.

At Grand Lodge, we understand the power of education in prevention. That’s why we take the time to spread awareness among ourselves and the greater community about the warning signs of stroke. The more we know what to look for and pay attention to in ourselves and our loved ones, the sooner we can act, receive life-saving medical treatment and potentially minimize the long-term effects of stroke.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the brain does not get the oxygen it needs to function, either because of a blockage or a burst blood vessel. There are two types of stroke: hemorrhagic strokes and ischemic strokes.

A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing blood to build up in the brain and damage to nearby brain tissue. An ischemic stroke occurs when plaque or a blood clot create a blockage that prevents blood vessels from getting to the brain. A transient ischemic stroke (TIA), often called a “mini-stroke,” occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked for no more than five minutes. TIA is to be taken seriously and considered a warning sign for a more serious stroke.

Know Your Stroke Risk Factors

We know that a healthy heart and a healthy mind play a critical role in keeping us happy and well as we age. Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to minimize your risk for stroke and other chronic diseases. In fact, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) experts estimate up to 80 percent of strokes may be prevented by living a healthier lifestyle.

Physical & Health Conditions

As mentioned above, a TIA or any history of previous stroke puts you at higher risk of having another. Other health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and sickle cell disease also all increase your risk for stroke.

Behaviors & Lifestyle

Bad habits such as inactivity and excessive alcohol or tobacco use increase a person’s risk for stroke. Obesity and a poor diet that is high in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium can play a role as well.

Genetics & Family History

Individuals with a family history of stroke or genetic disorders like sickle cell disease are at a heightened risk for stroke. Age, sex and race or ethnicity also factor into a person’s stroke risk. While a stroke can happen to anyone at any time, it is more common among older adults. The risk of stroke nearly doubles each decade after 55. Stroke is more frequent among women than men and more common among Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native individuals.

Stroke Symptoms in Women & Men

The signs and symptoms of stroke are the same for men and women, although which symptoms and the number of symptoms can vary on an individual basis. Signs and symptoms of stroke can include face drooping, trouble talking and arm weakness as well as the onset of any of the following:

  • Sudden numbness, particularly on one side of the body
  • Sudden difficulty with speech
  • Sudden vision problems
  • Sudden trouble walking
  • Sudden severe headache

Act “F.A.S.T.” for Timely Stroke Treatment

If you or a loved one is experiencing any signs of stroke, call 911 immediately. The American Stroke Association offers a quick assessment, easy to remember by the apt acronym F.A.S.T., to help determine if you or a loved one is in need of medical assistance.

F — Face Drooping

Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face feel numb or droopy or does the smile appear lopsided?

A — Arm Weakness

Ask the person to lift both arms up. Does one arm feel numb or drift downward?

S — Speech Difficulty

Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Do they have difficulty or is their speech slurred?

T — Time to Call 911

If the person is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 and get them to a hospital right away.

What To Do in the Instance of Stroke

In the event of stroke, use the F.A.S.T. assessment and call emergency services as soon as possible. Life-saving medical treatment is available. There are more than 7 million stroke survivors living in the U.S. and teams of occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech therapists who are helping stroke survivors on their recovery journey every day.

If you or someone you love has suffered a stroke, you can count on Grand Lodge to provide access to the skilled nursing and rehabilitation services you need.