What is a Stroke? Symptoms, Causes, and Response

Stroke Awareness

In honor of American Stroke Awareness Month, welcome to our four-part series on stroke. Each blog we publish the month of May will be dedicated to educating people about stroke, building awareness, and introducing treatment, rehab, and recovery options.

For this week’s post, we’ll start with the basics.

What is a stroke?

There’s a simple reason that respiration is involuntary: our bodies need oxygen to operate, from our internal organs to our outermost extremities. Deprive the body of oxygen and things begin to go awry, eventually leading to serious complications.

The same goes for the brain. When deprived of oxygenated blood, the brain begins to lose function, eventually causing cell damage. During a stroke, the brain experiences a sudden, acute loss of blood flow to part of the brain, usually as the result of a blood clot or rupture. The results can be catastrophic.

“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.” – Mayo Clinic

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

There are a number of common symptoms that precede a stroke, including:

  • Impairment of speech and comprehension – Be on the lookout for slurred speech, or inexplicable difficulty understanding what other people are saying.
  • A sudden headache – Though a headache alone is not necessarily a sign of stroke, sudden, severe headaches accompanied by dizziness and vomiting usually is.
  • Blurred vision or vision loss – Sudden vision loss or uncharacteristic will sometimes occur in one or both eyes during a stroke.
  • Numbness or paralysis – This, of course, is one of the telltale signs of stroke. Numbness, especially in the face, arm, or leg can indicate a stroke.

Are you at risk for a stroke?

Although a stroke can happen to anyone, there are certain risk factors that significantly increase stroke risk.

  • Lifestyle risk factors include smoking, excessive drinking, poor diet, obesity and sedentary lifestyle
  • Medical risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and heart disease.
  • Uncontrollable risk factors include genetic or hereditary conditions, such as sickle cell anemia, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, carotid artery disease, and peripheral artery disease.

What to do when someone is having a stroke

Should any of the aforementioned symptoms begin to occur, go to work F.A.S.T.

  • Face – Can the person smile when you ask them to? Is one side of their face drooping?
  • Arms – Can the person raise both arms to shoulder height? Is one of their arms waning downward? Are they unable to raise one or both arms at all?
  • Speech – Ask the person to repeat after you. Give them a simple phrase. Listen for slurred speech.
  • Time – The presence of any of these signs means you should call emergency services immediately.

How to prevent stroke

Strokes are complicated, and they can happen to anyone. Although there is nothing we can do to completely prevent stroke, there are many choices we can make—both in the short and long-term—that help prevent stroke.

Stay tuned to the AlterG® blog as we continue our blog series dedicated to Stroke Awareness Month. Our next post will take an in-depth look at stroke prevention, including actionable takeaways you can act on right away.

Did you know that many stroke rehabilitation protocols utilize the Alter® Anti-Gravity Treadmill?