Stroke is the No. 5 leading cause of death in the U.S. It's also a major cause of disability for adults.
A stroke can happen to anyone at any age. Women are especially at risk for stroke. One in five women will have a stroke, making it the No. 3 cause of death in women, according to the American Stroke Association.
There are two types of stroke, sometimes called a brain attack. One is an ischemic stroke, which happens when blood supply to part of the brain is blocked. A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel, aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation (abnormal tangle of blood vessels) in the brain bursts.
In both cases, parts of the brain may become damaged or die. A stroke can cause lasting brain damage, long-term disability or death.
It's important to know the warning signs and even more critical to act quickly in calling 911 to get help.
5 signs of a stroke
By knowing the symptoms of a stroke, you can quickly identify what’s going on and get help. Every minute counts to help lessen brain damage. Below are the five stroke symptoms, which typically happen suddenly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Numbness/weakness: Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Confusion: Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
- Trouble seeing: This could happen in one or both eyes.
- Trouble walking: This could include sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
- Severe headache: A sudden bad headache with no known cause.
If you or someone you're with has any of these symptoms, call 911 right away.
Importance of acting F.A.S.T. during an ischemic stroke
Experts stress the importance of getting treatment for an ischemic stroke right away. On average, 1.9 million brain cells die every minute an ischemic stroke goes untreated, according to the American Stroke Association. That's why you need to call 911 immediately if you or someone you know is having stroke symptoms.
The acronym F.A.S.T. can be used as a quick test to determine stroke:
F – Face drooping: Ask the person to smile and see if they're smile is uneven or if their face droops to one side.
A – Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise both arms to see if one arm is weak, numb, or drifts downward.
S – Speech difficulty: Ask the person to speak to see if their speech is slurred.
T – Time to call 911: Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call 911 for an ambulance to begin treatment right away.
Getting treated for stroke quickly leads to higher survival rates and lower disability rates. First responders can start treating someone for a stroke even before they get to a hospital.
Stroke risk factors
A stroke can happen to anyone at any age. The older you are, your chances of having a stroke are increased. However, people younger than 65 also have strokes. About one in seven strokes happen to people ages 15 to 49, according to the CDC.
There are some risk factors you can't control, such as age, family history, or gender. But there are some common medical conditions and lifestyle habits that put you more at risk for stroke. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, smoking, and not exercising enough, to name a few.
It's important to understand your risk of stroke and ways to help lower your risk.