Northwestern Medicine experts outline the signs of a stroke and explain the need for quick action
"A stroke occurs when a blocked blood vessel or artery interrupts blood flow to a particular part of the brain," said Richard Bernstein, MD, director of the Northwestern Medicine Stroke Program and Telestroke and professor in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Depending on the severity of a stroke and where in the brain it occurred, physical, cognitive and emotional functions may be impacted."
Sometimes called "brain attacks," strokes leave more than two thirds of survivors with lasting disability. With rehabilitation and specialist stroke survivors and their families are given hope and support through this life altering event. While some stroke risk factors can be reduced or controlled with preventive lifestyle choices, others are inherited.
"Making healthy decisions can dramatically lower a person's risk of having a stroke," said Clyde Yancy, MD, associate director of Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and chief of the division of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial and the Feinberg School. "While not every stroke risk is controllable an overall healthy lifestyle that emphasizes weight management through regular exercise and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains while avoiding high sodium and high-fat foods is important for overall health. Controlling blood pressure cannot be overemphasized as a way to reduce the likelihood of a stroke. Not smoking and limiting your drinking will also improve your overall health and decrease your likelihood of having a stroke."
People with preexisting medical conditions or have family members that had a stroke are also have an increased risk of stroke. Cardiovascular conditions including atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and poor circulation because of narrowed arteries heighten stroke risk. Neurological conditions including aneurysms and vascular malformations can cause bleeding in the brain, which is often the cause of stroke in young individuals. Proper treatment for these conditions plays an important role in risk reduction and prevention.
When a stroke occurs, rapid medical attention is crucial. When treatment is received promptly, a person has a far greater chance of surviving the stroke and more likely to have less lasting damage.
Immediate medical care should be sought if one or more of the following warning signs are observed: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
To remember the signs of stroke, the National Stroke Association recommends using the acronym FAST:
-- Face - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
-- Arms - Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
-- Speech - Ask the person to speak. Does the person have slurred speech or trouble speaking?
-- Time - If you observe any of the above signs, call 9-1-1.
Take this Northwestern Medicine stroke risk assessment to learn more about stroke risk factors you can help control. For more information about stroke, visit our website. To find a physician, call312-926-0779.
About Northwestern Medicine®
Northwestern Medicine® is the collaboration between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine around a strategic vision to transform the future of healthcare. It encompasses the research, teaching and patient care activities of the academic medical center. Sharing a commitment to superior quality, academic excellence and patient safety, the organizations within Northwestern Medicine comprise more than 9,000 clinical and administrative staff, 3,100 medical and science faculty and 700 students. The entities involved in Northwestern Medicine remain separate organizations. Northwestern Medicine is a trademark of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and is used by Northwestern University.
About Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Northwestern Memorial is one of the country's premier academic medical center hospitals and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Along with its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry, the hospital has 1,705 affiliated physicians and 6,769 employees. Northwestern Memorial is recognized for providing exemplary patient care and state-of-the art advancements in the areas of cardiovascular care; women's health; oncology; neurology and neurosurgery; solid organ and soft tissue transplants and orthopaedics.
Northwestern Memorial has nursing Magnet Status, the nation's highest recognition for patient care and nursing excellence. Northwestern Memorial ranks 6(th) in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report 2013-14 Honor Roll of America's Best Hospitals. The hospital is recognized in 14 of 16 clinical specialties rated by U.S. News and is No. 1 in Illinois and Chicago in U.S. News' 2013-14 state and metro rankings, respectively. For 14 years running, Northwestern Memorial has been rated among the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" guide by Working Mother magazine. The hospital is a recipient of the prestigious National Quality Health Care Award and has been chosen by Chicagoans as the Consumer Choice according to the National Research Corporation's annual survey for 15 consecutive years.
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