What are the signs of a stroke?

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Dr. Jennifer Majersik, neurologist and medical director of the Stroke Center at University of Utah Health joined Ali Monsen on Good Things Utah to talk about stroke awareness and how to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. What happens during a stroke and what’re the different types of stroke?

Dr. Majersik says there are 3 different types of strokes:

  • Ischemic stroke.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Transient ischemic attack 

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die. About 2 million brain cells die per minute during a stroke emergency. 87% of strokes are classified as ischemic.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a clot or a mass blocks a blood vessel, cutting off blood flow to a part of the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel, or cerebral aneurism, ruptures, spilling blood into the brain. Like an ischemic stroke, a major cause of hemorrhagic stroke is uncontrolled hypertension. A TIA (transient ischemic attack) is often called a “mini-stroke” or “warning stroke”. The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the blockage is transient, or temporary. Symptoms are exactly the same as a stroke, but usually, last less than five minutes. Even if symptoms go away, emergency help should be called immediately.

Strokes are pretty common. Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds (about 800,000 people each year). Every 3 minutes 42 seconds, someone dies of a stroke. Stroke is also a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability. Stroke, or vascular dementia, is also a leading cause of memory loss.

To remember the stroke warning signs, remember the acronym F.A.S.T.:

  • Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.
  • “Time to Call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Even as COVID-19 cases strain emergency medicine, experts say calling 9-1-1 is still the best way to access life-saving treatments for people who are experiencing stroke symptoms.

Stroke is a medical emergency. If someone is experiencing stroke symptoms, they should still call 9-1-1. Emergency medical responders can assess their symptoms, begin treatment in the ambulance, and transport the patient to the most appropriate hospital, if necessary.

To learn more visit Stroke Center at University of Utah Health.

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