Information and Support to Care For Your Aging Parent

Symptoms of a Stroke: Signs and Tips for Caregivers

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with approximately 795,000 people suffering a stroke each year. A stroke happens when the brain’s blood vessels are blocked or burst, denying the brain of the blood and oxygen it requires, causing brain cells to die.

If someone is having symptoms of a stroke, getting help fast is important to prevent brain damage. Getting help quickly can limit brain damage and severe side effects. If we can get ourselves or a loved one to the emergency room within three hours of first symptoms, the disabling effects may be minimized.

Symptoms for Men and Women

The CDC notes these symptoms for stroke in men and women:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
An elderly man and his son discuss internet findings.

Acting on the Information

Doctors recommend that people pay attention to their bodies. If a loved one does not feel well, we shouldn’t ignore symptoms. For, they can be indicators of a serious problem. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that we note the time when any symptoms first appear. This information helps healthcare providers determine the best treatment for each person. 

A person experiencing stroke should not drive. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.

It is worth noting that some people are at greater risk for stroke. If someone smokes, is obese, has high blood pressure, has high cholesterol, or diabetes, they are at higher risk. Moreover, if you are African American or Hispanic, you might be at greater risk statistically. See the additional reading and resources below.

Specific Symptoms for Women

According to the National Stroke Association, women may report symptoms that are different from the common symptoms. They can include:

  • loss of consciousness or fainting
  • general weakness
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • confusion, unresponsiveness, or disorientation
  • sudden behavioral change
  • agitation
  • hallucination
  • nausea or vomiting
  • pain
  • seizures
  • hiccups

Specific Language to Use

Know the signs of stroke! The CDC uses the acronym FAST to remember the signs and symptoms:

  • F — Face: “Smile for me.” Does one side of the face droop?
  • A-Arms: “Raise both of your arms.” Does one arm drift downward?
  • S — Speech: “Repeat after me. Breakfast is served at eight.” Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • T — Time: If you see any of these signs, call 911 right away. Time is of the essence in treatment.

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