Sroke is the third-leading cause of death all over the world. A stroke occurs when blood flow into the brain is interrupted (ischemic stroke) or when blood vessels in the brain rupture (hemorrhagic stroke). Even when a stroke is not fatal, there are often lifelong effects. Stroke survivors may have difficulty paying attention, suffer memory loss, or find it hard to express themselves. Fortunately, there are several early signs of stroke. If you experience one of these signs or are worried about your health, call 911. The Heart and Stroke Foundation advises against driving your car. It’s safer to rely on an ambulance. If you witness someone having a stroke, call for help and wait for the ambulance to arrive. Ask the person to lie down, or help them lie down. Make sure their airways are clear. The 911 operator will be able to help you. Click through the gallery above to learn more.
The acronym FAST can help you easily identify the common first signs of stroke in men and women. Each letter represents a symptom. “F” stands for the face, which may sag or go numb, usually on one side more than the other. Someone manifesting this symptom will be unable to smile normally. One corner of their mouth will tend to droop.
Inability to lift your arms normally
The second letter of the acronym FAST, “A,” refers to the arms—the inability to lift and hold them up as usual. A stroke sufferer may also feel numbness or weakness in one of their arms. If they are asked to lift their arms to a horizontal position, one of their arms will be less straight than the other.
No longer able to pronounce simple words correctly
Speech is the third sign from the acronym FAST. People suffering a stroke will have difficulty with language, specifically articulating simple words. One way to know if you are really seeing early signs of a stroke is to ask the person to repeat a simple sentence several times. Make sure it’s a sentence they are usually able to say. If they are incapable or their health worries you, call for help. In fact, the “T” in FAST stands for time and means you should call 911 right away.
In addition to losing the ability to pronounce simple words, someone suffering a stroke will appear confused. They will have difficulty finding the right words to express themselves and will be unable to understand what others are saying. This confusion is caused by insufficient blood flow to the area of the brain responsible for language.
Strokes can sometimes affect your vision, suddenly causing blurry vision or partial or complete vision loss. One or both eyes may be affected.
A stroke occasionally impairs the areas of the brain responsible for balance and coordination. Stroke victims can find it difficult to walk or stand. They may suddenly feel dizzy. Problems with your ears may also result in a loss of balance. Either way, a sudden loss of equilibrium warrants an immediate trip to the doctor.
One side of your body goes numb
Stroke victims may lose feeling in one side of their body. Men tend to experience this symptom more often than women. According to a 2009 study, 33.8% of male stroke victims presented this symptom compared to 29.9% of women.
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Some early signs of stroke that deserve particular attention occur more often in women. Women often experience symptoms that are less “traditional” than those exhibited by men. For example, women frequently have difficulty breathing or feel short of breath before the onset of a stroke. Respiratory problems do not occur only in cases of stroke. Nevertheless, if this symptom appears suddenly and without a good reason (you’ve just run to catch the bus, for example), it’s best to seek help.
Hallucinations, especially visual ones, are an early sign of stroke seen more often in women than men, reports the National Stroke Association. They happen unexpectedly and for no apparent reason. Some women continue to experience hallucinations several weeks, or even years, after suffering a stroke.
In some cases, strokes cause violent headaches that are, in general, more painful than usual. Women are more likely to present with this symptom than men.
Few people associate nausea with strokes. Other, more common causes come to mind, like indigestion, stress, and pregnancy. Nevertheless, several women (fewer men experience this symptom) who have had strokes report feeling nauseated.
Sometimes, nausea becomes so severe that it causes vomiting. When it comes to strokes, this symptom is particularly worrying because, according to one study, patients who vomit have a higher mortality rate than those who don’t.
People don’t usually panic when they get the hiccups, and why should they? Hiccups are rarely lethal. However, when they occur in combination with other symptoms described in this information, hiccups may indicate the onset of a stroke, especially in women. So, pay attention to your hiccups.
Pain in your face or limbs
Occasionally, numbness and weakness in the face or limbs is accompanied by sudden, unusual, or severe pain. Women are slightly more likely to manifest this symptom than men.
Friends and family of someone who has suffered a stroke may have difficulty recognizing them. Often, a stroke victim’s behavior will change, as if they have become another person. Researchers have discovered that 44.2% of women and 24.1% of men experienced a “mental status change” before suffering a stroke.
Have you forgotten your cat’s name? Can you no longer remember where you live? One of the early signs of stroke is memory loss. Stroke victims are no longer able to recall what they would normally remember. Women are at a higher risk of presenting this symptom during a stroke.
Before suffering a stroke, you may feel fatigued for an unknown reason. Stroke victims may even fall into a coma if a large part of the brain stem stops receiving blood. Comas can often have prolonged effects. Obviously, if you see someone fall into a coma, don’t hesitate to call 911.
Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, is not a common early sign of stroke. Data from one study showed that only 6.5% of women and 5.8% of men say they found it difficult to swallow prior to suffering a stroke. On the other hand, the Stroke Association found that after having a stroke, half of all patients experience difficulty swallowing.
Women are more likely than men to be agitated during a stroke. Feeling upset may strike suddenly and without cause. When agitation is accompanied by other symptoms mentioned in this information, it’s a good idea to seek help.