Stroke: knowing the signs of stroke and how you can help
In South Africa, stroke is the third most common cause of death. That’s almost 300 people a day! So it’s worth being able to identify the signs of stroke. Acting quickly could limit damage to the patient and even save a life.What is a stroke?
To identify the signs of stroke and help a stroke victim, you need a basic understanding of what a stroke is. Stroke occurs when blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients to a section of the brain become blocked or burst. The blood starved brain cells die, causing damage that may be permanent. It’s clear that the cause of stroke is very similar to what happens in a heart attack – that’s why stroke is often called a ‘brain attack’.
There are two types of stroke:
Ischaemic stroke: This is the most common type of stroke. Ischaemic strokes are caused when blood vessels in the brain are narrowed or blocked by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or blood clots. Blood cannot pass freely through the blood vessels and parts of the brain become blood-starved.
Haemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts and causes bleeding in the brain. When this happens, part of the brain can’t get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so the affected brain cells die and parts of the brain may be permanently damaged.
So, with stroke being the third-most common cause of death in South Africa, it’s worth learning the signs of stroke and how to help a stroke patient.
What causes a stroke?
Stroke is caused by a range of factors.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Uncontrolled raised cholesterol levels.
(These first three conditions are the main culprits behind blood vessel‐clogging
Other causes of stroke are infections such as TB, meningitis and HIV, and head injuries (as a result of alcohol or substance abuse, violence and accidents).
Sudden weakness or numbness in face, arm or leg (usually on one side of the body).
Sudden loss of speech, difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
Sudden loss of vision.
Sudden severe, unusual headache.
Sudden dizziness, loss of balance and trouble with walking.
How to help a stroke victim
Learn the four main points to help stroke victims with the acronym ‘FAST’.
F = Face. Ask the person to smile; is the mouth lopsided or droopy? A = Arm. Can the person lift both arms and keep them up or is one arm weaker and drifts downward when extended? S = Speech. Can the person answer a simple question such as ‘when were you born?’ or ‘what day is it?’ Can the person answer? Is he or she slurring? T = Time to call emergency medical services. Make a careful note of the time the symptoms began and call for help urgently.
Medical help is most important within the first few hours after a stroke: remember that time lost is brain function lost. The faster you get the affected person to a hospital, the better their chances of survival and recovery.
Call 112 (if calling from a cellphone) Call 10177 (if calling from a landline)[/message]
Find out all you need to know about the signs of stroke, how to care for stroke patients and and how good lifestyle choices such as good nutrition, exercise and avoiding smoking can reduce your chances of having a stroke at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa.
NOTE: While we encourage you to play an conscious role in making the most of your health, if you’ve been diagnosed with a sever medical condition such as stroke, it is vital to consult your medical professional. Do not treat yourself without discussing the severity of your condition and all your therapeutic options with your doctor.