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Your First Response to a Sudden Stroke: What to Know

World Stroke Day 2021: Before you can assist, you must first understand what to look out for.

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Your First Response to a Sudden Stroke: What to Know
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A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted. To put it simply, a stroke is a heart attack in the brain.

This means that there was either a clot in the blood vessels in the brain (which accounts for 80 percent of strokes) or the blood vessels burst and bled into the brain. As a result of the disruption in blood supply, parts of the brain become damaged and die off as they lose oxygen.

According to 2018 guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Stroke Association (ASA), people who are treated within 4.5 hours with a blood clot-dissolving medication, have a better probability of recovering without substantial handicap.

Stroke symptoms are distinct in nature as they appear suddenly and without warning. Damage to the brain can be reduced if medical attention is received quickly and the blockage is cleared to restore blood supply. This is when the first-aid response comes into play.

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Look Out for Symptoms

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the stroke. Before you can assist, you must first understand what to look out for.

Use the FAST acronym to screen for stroke warning symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a stroke, don't hesitate to get help. Take symptoms seriously, even if they are minor or disappear. Brain cells begin to die in a matter of minutes.

  • F: Is the patient's face numb, or has it dropped to one side?

  • A: Is one arm of the patient numb or weaker than the other? When you try to elevate both arms, does one arm stay lower than the other?

  • S: Is the speaker's speech slurred or garbled?

  • T: If it's a yes to any of the above questions, it's time to call an ambulance.

Symptoms of stroke are not limited to FAST, there are several other signs and symptoms that you must keep an eye for like - sudden decrease in level of consciousness, weakness, or paralysis, feeling of numbness in face, arm or leg, difficulty swallowing, loss of balance, headache, usually severe and abrupt and confusion.

Call an Ambulance

Your first reaction may be to get a loved one to the hospital if they are having a stroke. However, in many cases calling an ambulance from a neuro-prepared hospital may be the best option.

Don’t offer food or drink

Don't offer the patient anything to eat or drink because it may decrease swallowing abilities and can lead to choking, even with water.

Don’t be the doctor

Don't give them aspirin, depending on the type of stroke, it can make it worse. It's also possible that they're allergic to aspirin. In fact, until aid arrives, avoid all drugs.

Stroke can happen to anyone at any age, including babies, though they are more common in the elderly. Some people recover completely from a stroke, while others suffer life-changing consequences, and unfortunately, some people die as a result of a stroke.

Don't keep off from seeking treatment or waiting for symptoms to go away because this could result in irreversible damage when areas of the brain die due to a lack of oxygen.

Recognising and managing a sudden stroke attack can mean the difference between life and death, or even between long-term impairment and full recovery. With the increasing prevalence of stroke, it is critical that we all understand and practice first-aid procedures for managing a sudden stroke attack.

(Author: Dr. Nishant Shanker Yagnick, Senior Consultant – Neurosurgery, Columbia Asia Hospital, Palam Vihar)

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