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Stroke: know the signs, know what to do

Even though stroke prevalence rises sharply after age 55, one-quarter of Canadians living with stroke are under age 65. Fortunately, early action can minimise brain damage and potential complications. Read on to find out if you are at risk of stroke, learn how to recognise signs of stroke, and what to do about it.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. The residual effects of a stroke depend upon which area of the brain was affected. So, for example, if the part of the brain responsible for speech is where the stroke occurred, the person might lose their ability to speak. The good news is that strokes can be treated and prevented, early action can minimise brain damage and potential complications.

Are you at risk of having a stroke?

Persistent high blood pressure is the strongest risk factor for a stroke. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and atrial fibrillation (a disorder of the heart rhythm). Factors such as family history, age, diet and physical activity may play a role in your risk of stroke. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation offers a free online risk calculator with follow-up support to help you identify and manage your stroke risk.

What are the signs of stroke?

Stroke is a medical emergency. If you experience or see someone else with these signs call 9-1-1immediately. Do not drive to the hospital, it might be too late by the time you reach a hospital. Paramedics and first response teams are better equipped to administer emergency medical aid to stroke victims. Here's what you need to look out for:

F - Face : Is it drooping?

A - Arms : Can you raise both?

S - Speech : Is it slurred or jumbled?

T - Time : To call 911 right away!

The FAST signs are the most common signs of stroke and they are signs that are more likely to be caused by stroke than any other condition. There are some additional signs of stroke that are less common. They include:

- Vision changes - blurred or double vision

- Sudden severe headache - usually accompanied by some of the other signs

- Numbness - usually on one side of the body

- Problems with balance

Here's a short video on how to recognise the signs of stroke FAST (video on Youtube by Heart & Stroke).

Recovery and support after a stroke

Your treatment will depend on the type of stroke you had, how serious it was, your age and general health, and how soon you arrived at the hospital or received medical attention. Since brain cells can die within minutes of blood supply being cut off to them, treatment is usually only a viable option in the first few hours after the stroke. After that, it is mostly preventing and managing complications. On leaving the hospital it is essential to have a good discharge plan in place. There is no schedule for stroke recovery. Your stroke is unique to you and your recovery will move at your own pace, based on your own situation. A team of healthcare providers will work with you and your caregivers to help you recover and rehabilitate.

I can imagine how challenging it can be for someone to carry on with their life while dealing with the after effects of a stroke. At in4MED, we can make this stressful time easier by providing you with information about your condition, connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.


Healthcare Consultant, in4MED


The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.

*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.

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