Signs of stroke demand quick action

Published: 7/30/2018 3:09:56 PM

When it comes to treating strokes, a medical condition that occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off, every second counts.

But in order for treatment to be applied in time, someone must first recognize the symptoms of a stroke, says Diane Stephan, nurse manager of the emergence department at  Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

“At the first signs of a stroke, it’s important to call 911,” Stephan said, noting that signs can vary from more obvious symptoms like muscle numbness or weakness to an extremity, particularly on one side of the body, to something as subtle as not being able to swallow all of a sudden.

Other signs, according to the American Heart and Stroke Association, include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, sudden confusion or slurred speech, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination, and severe headache without a known cause.

If any of these occur, Stephan says, it is important to seek immediate medical help by calling 911, because, while a stroke is happening, sections of the brain might not be getting oxygen.

Strokes can occur one of two ways. First, a clot blocks an artery, cutting off blood flow to the brain. Second, an artery ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Treatment is applied a few different ways depending on the type of stroke by using medication that either clots or thins the blood.

“When the vessel gets blocked, we need to get through that blockage,” Stephan said, noting that the sooner treatment occurs, the more likely the person experiencing the stroke will survive and recover without debilitating or permanent repercussions.

As far as what people can do to prevent a stroke in the first place, Stephan said, it’s important to control blood pressure, stop smoking, eat healthy, maintain an active lifestyle, manage cholesterol, lose weight, control blood sugar, and see a doctor regularly for checkups.

For more information, Stephan suggests visiting the stroke association’s website at 

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