A stroke occurs when oxygen and vital nutrients carried in the blood is cut off from the brain. According to the American Stroke Association, nearly 700,000 Americans suffer strokes each year. Nearly 25% of those victims die. There are two reasons – in one, called an ischemic stroke, a blood vessel in the neck or brain is blocked by plaque or a blood clot. This makes up over 80% of strokes. The second reason known as a hemorrhagic stroke involves a blood vessel bursting or leaking. 1
A stroke is a serious medical emergency. The victim has only 2-6 hours to stop permanent brain damage. Getting to a hospital as quickly as possible is critical.2 Don’t take time to drive there. Call 911 immediately. AN EMT can begin administering aid on the way to hospital. if you recognize any of these symptoms. For each minute the blood flow to the brain is blocked, 1.9 million neurons are lost.3 This could affect a persons speech, mobility and memory.
- Sudden Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding – ask the victim to repeat the following: “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks.” Slurred words, using the wrong words or an inability to speak are symptoms of a stroke.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body – often an affected limb on the opposite side of the body from where the stroke occurred will go numb, feel weak or be unable to move. Stretch out both arms with palms up for 10 seconds. If one arm drifts down, that indicates muscle weakness. Also with eyes open, lift one leg at a time.2
- Sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes – blurred vision of loss of vision in one eye or double vision are not readily recognized as a stroke symptom.
- Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance, or dizziness – don’t confuse these symptoms with inebriation or the flu.
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause – women are more likely to have a headache with stroke than men. Don’t hesitate to ask for an MRI in the emergency room.
- Droopy face – if one side of the face appears to be sagging or doesn’t move, ask the victim to smile, stick out his/her tongue or show teeth. The weakness will be obvious.
The Advanced Cardiac Life Support medical training program has published a guide that assists medical care providers in evaluations using the NIH Stroke Scale.
Strokes are the number 4 cause of death in the U.S. In addition, they are a leading cause of severe long term disability. Don’t hesitate to get help immediately and don’t let the stroke victim over-rule a decision to call 911. The American Stroke Association has shown that administering a clot-busting drug within three hours of the first symptoms, reduces long-term disability for nearly 90% of all cases.4
1. It’s a Disaster … What to do about Strokes, pg. 207 http://www.itsadisaster.net/