Stroke preparedness: Recognising early signs and actions to take | Health - Hindustan Times

Stroke preparedness: Health experts reveal how to recognise early signs and what actions to take

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Mar 12, 2024 12:46 PM IST

How to recognise early signs of a stroke? What is something we can do if we or someone else experiences stroke symptoms? Health experts answer

It very important to recognise early signs or symptoms of stroke and take prompt action right away as every minute delay, especially in an ischemic stroke, can lead to the death and destruction of thousands and thousands of neurons in the brain. So, what is something we can do to recognise early signs of a stroke?

Stroke preparedness: Health experts reveal how to recognise early signs and what actions to take (Photo by Jill Carnahan MD)
Stroke preparedness: Health experts reveal how to recognise early signs and what actions to take (Photo by Jill Carnahan MD)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Sonia Lal Gupta, Senior Neurologist and Director at Metro Group, revealed, “The first simple formula that we can follow is this aqua name called FAST. This is an easy way to remember the signs of a stroke as ‘F’ stands for grouping of the face on one side or sudden numbness. ‘A’ stands for arm weakness, which happens all of a sudden and the person complains of feeling weakness in the arm. ‘S’ stands for speech difficulty that is sudden difficulty in speaking properly and not being able to understand his speech or having slur speech. ‘T’ stands for time as every second we are losing hundreds and hundreds of neurons. It is important to get to the hospital as soon as possible.”

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She added, “An important thing to remember is that it happens suddenly. There can be confusion, there can be trouble walking, dizziness and sometime even very severe sudden headache or sudden loss of vision can also be signs of stroke and it is important to get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. The key thing about stroke is to also understand that what are the risk factors one should keep in mind that increase the chances of having a stroke. These include lifestyle diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol conditions like smoking, obesity and medical conditions like irregular heart beat called atrial fabulation.”

She advised, “To help decrease your risk of stroke, maintain a healthy lifestyle such as eating a balanced diet, regular exercise at least 4-5 times a week, managing stress better, extremely important to quite smoking and controlling diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes. Many a times people ignore high blood pressure and diabetes and tend to take other medication over the top medication that are easily available but such life threatening conditions are long term and can worsen the condition of the people and put them at a risk of having stroke or heart attack. It is important that you follow up regularly with a doctor so that you are on the right medications and take the right step towards your diet so that these can be controlled. Please remember, every minute counts when it comes to stroke treatment. Going to the hospital in time can lead to getting a CT Scan done, which can help identify an ischemic stroke - where the arteries of brain are blocked with a clot or a haemorrhagic stroke - where the arteries of the brain bleed. Depending on the type of stroke treatment with clot breaking medications (if somebody comes within four and a half hours to take that clot out) to treating a haemorrhagic stroke (according to the location and size of the bleed), steps can be taken.”

Bringing his expertise to the same, Doctor Vipul Gupta, Chief - Neurointerventional Surgery and Co-Chief Stroke Unit at Artemis Hospital in Gurugram, emphasised the importance of promptly identifying potential stroke symptoms and responding effectively. He said, “Early recognition of warning signs such as sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, difficulty speaking or understanding speech and sudden onset of severe headache can significantly improve outcomes.”

He suggested, “If you or someone else experiences these symptoms, it's crucial to act quickly. Remember the acronym FAST: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call emergency services. Call emergency services immediately if you suspect a stroke, even if symptoms seem to disappear. While waiting for help, keep the person calm and comfortable, and note the time when symptoms first appeared, as this information is vital for medical professionals. Being proactive and aware of stroke symptoms can save lives and prevent long-term disability. Avoid giving the person anything to eat or drink and keep them calm and still. By being aware of the signs of a stroke and taking swift action.”

He concluded, “Although age and family history are uncontrollable risk factors for stroke, there are a number of lifestyle modifications that can help lower the risk of stroke. Like eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, engage in moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking. Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall health. Discuss any concerns or changes in symptoms promptly.”

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