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Know the warning signs of a stroke

The statistics are scary. Every 40 seconds, somebody in the United States has a stroke. About 800,000 strokes occur every year. And, stroke is the number one cause of disability.

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a sudden interruption of blood supply to the brain, causing brain cells to die.

There are two types of stroke. The more common is ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to part of the brain. Ischemic strokes account for approximately 87 percent of all stroke cases. The other type, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain and blood accumulates, compressing the surrounding brain tissue.

It is critical to get help immediately by calling 911 if you are having a stroke. When brain cells die during a stroke, functions controlled by that area of the brain are damaged. Some of these functions include speech, movement and memory. How a patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much of the brain is damaged.

A person who experiences a minor stroke may experience less serious problems, such as weakness of an arm or leg. Major strokes may result in paralysis on one side of the body or loss of the ability to speak. Some people recover completely from strokes, while others experience long-term disability.

Signs of a stroke

Oftentimes, the person having the stroke is confused and they don’t even know they’re having it. That's why it's important to know the warning signs in case someone you know begins to have stroke symptoms. 

FAST is an acronym used as a mnemonic to help detect and enhance responsiveness to stroke victim needs.

  • Facial drooping: A section of the face, usually only on one side, that is drooping and hard to move. This can be recognized by a crooked smile.

  • Arm weakness: The inability to raise one's arm fully.

  • Speech difficulties: An inability or difficulty to understand or produce speech.

  • Time: If any of the symptoms above are showing, time is of the essence; call 911 or go to the hospital.     

It is crucial to get the patient to the hospital right away, because doctors need to diagnose what type of stroke the patient is having. If it’s the common ischemic stroke, there are clot-busting drugs and certain devices that can minimize or even cancel the effects of a stroke. Remember "FAST," and if you believe someone is having a stroke, call 911. For more information on stroke, visit Piedmont Stroke Services.

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Centers for Control and Disease Prevention (CDC)

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