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Recognizing the Signs of Stroke

A stroke means that the blood supply to a part of the brain is suddenly cut off. The brain cells need a constant supply of oxygen from the blood. Soon after the blood supply is cut off, the cells in the affected area of brain become damaged or die. A stroke is sometimes called a brain attack.

The blood supply to the brain comes mainly from four blood vessels (arteries) - the right and left carotid arteries and the right and left vertebrobasilar arteries. These branch into many smaller arteries which supply blood to all areas of the brain. The area of brain affected and the extent of the damage depend on which blood vessel is affected.

Because stroke symptoms can occur suddenly and unexpectedly, it is important to recognize the signs. An easy way to remember how to recognize stroke is the FAST test:

  • F — Face Drooping. Is one side of the face drooping or numb? Ask the person to smile.

  • A — Arm Weakness. Is one arm or leg weak and numb, especially on one side? Ask the person to raise both arms.

  • S — Speech Difficulty. Is the speech slurred? Can they speak clearly or do they seem confused? Ask them to repeat a simple phrase.

  • T — Time with even one of these signs, and even if the symptom goes away. Get to the hospital immediately.

Other signs of stroke may include trouble seeing or walking, dizziness or severe headache without a known cause.

Most strokes are Ischemic , caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that has burst. Although there can be a genetic component, most cases of stroke can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and managing existing medical conditions, such as not smoking, staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight with a balanced diet, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, and lowering your cholesterol level.

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