Roughly every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. What I didn’t realize is that people of all ages are vulnerable, despite seemingly good health. In fact, the risk of stroke is increasing faster in individuals ages 30-45 than in any other age group. Stroke is serious- it’s the number one cause for disability in the United States.
Time is a huge factor in responding to stroke so we all need to be very familiar with the symptoms rather than brushing them off because of young age.
Symptoms of stroke include:
- Sudden, severe headache with an unknown cause
- Sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, on one side of the body
- Sudden dimness or visual loss, particularly in one eye
- Dizziness, loss of balance or staggering walk
- Slurred speech or inability to talk
- Abrupt loss of consciousness
It’s also important to know controllable risk factors for stroke. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventing obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol can reduce your chance of stroke.
There are also uncontrollable risk factors like having a hole in your heart. When a person has stroke “out of the blue” with no obvious risk factors, doctors will often check to see if the stroke was caused by a “hole” in the heart called a patent foramen ovale (PFO) Approximately 1 in 5 Americans has a PFO and many don’t know until after a stroke occurs.
What is a PFO?
All people are born with flap-like openings in their hearts and the opening usually closes by itself shortly after birth. In some people, an open flap remains in the heart. This opening can allow a blood clot to travel through the flap and to the brain, causing a stroke. (www.stroke.org)
If you think someone around you could be suffering from a stroke think FAST
Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arms – Ask the person to hold both arms up evenly. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech – Ask the person to repeat a single sentence. Are his/her words slurred or mixed up?
Time – If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately!