6 Things You Don’t Know About Stroke—But Need To
Learn what you can do to prevent stroke and how to spot the symptoms so you can get help fast.
In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. They’re often fatal, but they’re also the leading cause of disability among adults—a fact that should concern anyone hoping to preserve their mobility, speech, and overall quality of life as they age.
Fortunately, if you get help quickly, you’re much less likely to experience long-term complications. That means quickly realizing a stroke is happening, which isn’t always easy.
Stroke Fact #1: Your Risk Increases with Age, But You Don’t Have to Be “Old” to Have One
According to the CDC, nearly 33 percent of people with strokes are between ages 20 and 64, so don’t dismiss the risk at any age.
Stroke Fact #2: Women Are at Greater Risk Than Men
Both sexes are vulnerable, but more women than men will have a stroke.
Stroke Fact #3: There Are Two Main Types, and They Call for Totally Different Treatments
Ischemic: Most strokes are ischemic, when a blood clot, plaque, or other fatty deposit breaks off and blocks an artery to the brain. In that case, a drug-like tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can break up the clot and restore blood flow.
Hemorrhagic: Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel bursts and leaks blood into the brain. Although less common than the ischemic variety, they can be more deadly. The remedy varies based on how big the bleed is and where it’s located.
Stroke Fact #4: The Sooner You Get Treatment, the Better
When you have a stroke, your brain is deprived of oxygen and vital nutrients. The result: About two million brain cells die every minute, so you need to move quickly.
Stroke Fact #5: Think FAST to Spot Key Signs of Stroke
To learn — and remember — the keystroke symptoms, memorize the acronym FAST. It stands for:
- Face: It might be droopy or numb on one side, especially when you try to smile.
- Arm: One might be weak or droopy. Could you raise your arms to check?
- Speech: It might be garbled, or you may be unable to express your thoughts. Also, you may need some help understanding what others are saying.
- Time: As in, call 911 right now if you have any of the above symptoms.
Stroke Fact #6: It’s Possible to Have a Stroke and Not Know It
A stroke’s impact depends on which part of the brain is deprived of nutrients and for how long. It’s not uncommon to have a mini-stroke—known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA)—and have no idea until you later have a CT scan for something else.