According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the US. "There are two types of strokes, and they both cause the same problem, a lack of blood flow in the brain," says Christine Perry, DO, emergency room physician at McLaren Greater Lansing. "You most commonly hear of ischemic stroke, which is a blockage of a vessel in the brain. Symptoms of a stroke come in a wide variety." Here are five signs you might be having an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke (a rupture to the blood vessels in the brain). Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Numbness and Weakness
Numbness in the body and weakness in the face, arm or legs could be a sign of stroke. "Stroke symptoms come on very suddenly," says Kelley A. Humbert, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology at Penn Medicine. "People are fine one moment and then suddenly have symptoms, such as weakness, numbness, trouble talking, or loss of vision. They might wonder where it came from."
Slurred Speech and Difficulty Walking
Trouble with speech and movement could be a sign of stroke, warn experts. "Can the person repeat a simple phrase? Does the speech sound slurred/strange/garbled? Does the person say he or she has a thick tongue or have difficulty swallowing?" says Maureen Stull, RN, Stroke Program Coordinator, Marin General Hospital. "Watch for a sudden loss of balance. Is the person leaning to one side or staggering when walking?"
Sudden vision loss could mean a stroke is about to happen. "Brief vision changes in one eye can be a sign of an oncoming stroke," says Robert C. Sergott, MD. "If temporary blurriness or reduced vision is due to an oncoming stroke, you may only have a few hours to get emergency care before a stroke occurs."
The American Stroke Association recommends remembering these letters to identify a possible stroke:
F = Face Drooping
A = Arm Weakness
S = Speech Difficulty
T = Time to call 911
Never Ignore Stroke Symptoms
If you suspect you're having a stroke, seek medical help immediately. "One of the things people often do is, if their symptoms go away, they'll stay home and consider they've had a mini-stroke," says Dr. Perry. "Going straight to the ER is always the best plan if you think you're having a stroke. It could save your life."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.