Know the signs of a stroke and what to do next

Every year about 800,000 people suffer from strokes, but 80 percent of those strokes can be prevented, according to the National Stroke Association. Strokes occur when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off — essentially, it’s a heart attack in the brain. Strokes can kill brain cells, which causes a lot of damage. Depending on where the stroke hits in the brain, certain functions like muscle control or even memory can be lost, according to the National Stroke Association.
But how someone is affected by a stroke depends on where the stroke strikes in the brain and subsequently how much is damaged. Sometimes strokes can cause minor problems, but the National Stroke Association explains that in severe cases, a stroke can leave someone paralyzed or unable to speak. Strokes are preventable and treatable, though, so it’s important to understand the symptoms and risk factors.
Medical News Today posts a great acronym for recognizing the signs of a stroke to help people identify one more quickly. Strokes can happen really fast, and since they can cause such bad damage, it’s important to get a person suffering from a stroke to a doctor right away. Here’s what you can use to remember the signs of a stroke:
Face drooping: If the person tries to smile, does one side of the face droop?
Arm weakness: If the person tries to raise both their arms, does one arm drift downward?
Speech difficulty: If the person tries to repeat a simple phrase, is the speech slurred or strange?
Time to call 911: If you observe any of these signs, contact the emergency services.
Other symptoms include:
– Confusion and trouble speaking and understanding things
– Headache, possibly with altered consciousness or vomiting
– Numbness in the face, arm or leg, particularly on one side
– Trouble seeing
– Trouble walking, such as dizziness and lack of coordination
Sometimes strokes can go unnoticed for periods of times, and in these cases strokes can leave people with serious side effects. If a person experiences some of the symptoms listed below, that person may have had a stroke in the past and be unaware. In that case, it’s very important to get the person to a doctor right away to prevent another stroke from occurring.
– Continence problems — bladder or bowel
– Depression
– Pain in the hands and feet, and it gets worse with movement and temperature changes
– Paralysis or weakness on one or both sides of the body
– Trouble conveying or controlling emotions
There are two main kinds of strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic, and each is treated differently.
Ischemic stroke
According to Medical News Today, ischemic strokes account for 85 percent of all strokes. This kind of stroke is caused when something blocks or narrows the arteries that bring blood to the brain — usually a blood clot.
The Mayo Clinic explains that when treating an ischemic stroke, doctors have to work quickly to get the blood flowing back into your brain. Emergency treatments include drugs that will clear the clot, as well as administering aspirin, which prevents clots from forming.
Some stroke patients also benefit from tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), according to the Mayo Clinic. TPA is injected in the veins to break down the clot and is usually administered very soon after the stroke occurrs. TPA can also be administered directly into the brain artery that’s causing the stroke. Doctors can also remove the clot manually by going into the artery and essentially sucking it out.
Hemorrhagic stroke 
Hemorrhagic strokes are different because they’re caused when the arteries in the brain leak blood, or burst completely, according to Medical News Today. When an artery leaks or bursts, this creates a pool of blood in the space between the brain and the skull, which puts pressure on brain cells and causes damage.
To treat a hemorrhagic stroke, doctors often must repair the blood vessel that leaked or burst. This can be done with different types of surgery, as explained by the Mayo Clinic.
Stroke Rehabilitation
Since strokes can cause damage to different parts of the brain, each person’s recovery process is individualized. Many times, though, the rehabilitation focuses on helping the patient regain strength and function that may have been lost due to the stroke. The Mayo Clinic says some therapies may include:
– Seeing a doctor trained in brain conditions (neurologist)
– Seeing a rehabilitation doctor (physiatrist)
– Seeing a nurse
– Working with a dietitian
– Working with a physical therapist
– Working with an occupational therapist
– Working with a recreational therapist
– Working with a speech therapist
– Working with a social worker or case manager
– Seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist
– Speaking with a chaplain
Despite all the damage strokes can cause, strokes are preventable. Medical News Today says the best way to avoid developing a stroke is to lead a healthy life:
– Eat a healthy diet.
– Maintain a healthy weight.
– Exercise regularly.
– Don’t smoke.
– Avoid alcohol.
– Keep blood pressure under control.
– Manage diabetes if you have it.
– Treat obstructive sleep apnea.
And to prevent a stroke for those with risk factors, doctors may prescribe:
– Medicines that thin the blood (anticoagulants or antiplatelet medications)
– Surgery to the artery
For additional resources on strokes, visit the National Stroke Associationfor guides, decision-making aids and discussion scorecards to bring to your doctor.