(CARLSBAD, CA) – Do you know what to do if a friend or family member suddenly experiences numbness, blurry vision, severe headaches, loss of balance, and slurred speech? Would you recognize these symptoms as signs of a stroke? Would you rush the afflicted person to the emergency room, knowing that early detection allows a stroke’s effects to be lessened, or even reversed?
Stroke is the main cause of disability, second leading cause of dementia, and the third leading cause of death in the United States. Yet, only 50 percent of Americans can name one stroke symptom, according to a survey sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders. Perhaps even more alarming is that 40% of those who have already had a stroke can’t identify a single warning sign either!
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is either blocked or bursts. That part of the brain, lacking essential oxygen, starts to die. The part of the body controlled by the damaged area of the brain can no longer work properly.
Eighty percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes - strokes caused when a blood clot forms in the brain or travels from somewhere else in the blood system to the brain. The blood clot then blocks a blood vessel in the brain, causing the stroke. These types of strokes are frequently preceded by transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or mini-strokes.
There is nothing “mini” about a mini-stroke, however. That’s because TIA mini-strokes are followed by major strokes 36 percent of the time. Some people even have a cluster of TIAs before a full-blown stroke. Once the full ischemic stroke occurs, brain damage can begin within minutes. Knowing the warning signs and acting fast are the keys to limiting brain damage.
The American Stroke Association has published these symptoms of a TIA mini-stroke and a full ischemic stroke:
- Weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes, dimness, loss of vision, or blurry vision.
- Difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
- Severe headache with no known cause.
- Unexplained dizziness, difficulty walking, or loss of balance.
The symptoms of a stroke can be fleeting, perhaps lasting just a couple of minutes. Since most people don’t know what’s happening, they don’t seek help. By the time they do, the damage is done.
Fortunately, for those who seek immediate help, doctors use medicine that dissolves blood clots and restores blood flow to the brain. When this treatment is given within 90 minutes of the initial stroke symptoms, recovery from a stroke is dramatically improved.
How can you be on the alert for signs of a stroke? Judi Sheppard Missett, founder and CEO of Jazzercise, Inc., recommends memorizing the 60-second test created by the American Stroke Foundation. This three-step test can be given to anyone who you think may be suffering from a stroke.
- Ask the individual to smile.
- Ask the individual to raise both arms.
- Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, such as “It is a cloudy day.”
If a person has trouble with any of these three tasks, call 911 immediately.
Jazzercise, created by Judi Sheppard Missett, is the world's leading dance-fitness program with more than 7,500 instructors teaching 32,000 classes weekly in the U.S. and around the globe. Since 1969, millions of people of all ages and fitness levels have reaped the benefits of this comprehensive program, designed to enhance cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. For more information on Jazzercise go to jazzercise.com or call (800)FIT-IS-IT or (760)476-1750.