Do You Know the Warning Signs of a Stroke?

If you answered “no” to this question, you aren’t alone. While most people are familiar with the basic definition of a stroke — a condition in which blood flow to the brain is restricted or blocked — they don’t know the warning signs of it. As a result, many cases of strokes go unnoticed, especially those involving seniors.

Silent Strokes in Seniors

Some strokes create obvious symptoms that signify the need for immediate medical attention. Others, however, create less-obvious symptoms. Known as a silent stroke, they are relatively common among seniors. Research conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) found that one-quarter of seniors over the age of 80 have experienced at least one silent stroke.

They are known as “silent strokes” because they don’t create the same hallmark symptoms that are used to recognize strokes. Many seniors who experience a silent stroke don’t even realize it. If you have an aging parent or loved one, you should be on the lookout for certain signs indicating a stroke.

Numbness

One of the most common signs of a stroke is numbness in the body. It’s usually isolated on either the left or right side. During a stroke, a senior’s face, arm, leg and/or hand may become numb. This is the result of blood flow being restricted to the brain. As the brain is deprived of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood, numbness can occur.

While numbness is usually isolated to one side of the body, it can still affect both sides of the body. Therefore, you should be on the lookout for numbness. If a senior parent or loved one experienced numbness, call 911 immediately. Other medical conditions can cause numbness as well, but when a stroke occurs, time of the essence. The sooner the senior receives treatment, the better his or her chances of making a full recovery.

Speech Difficulties

Another common sign of a stroke if speech difficulties. Speech difficulties can manifest in many different ways. A stroke may cause a senior to slur his or her speech. Alternatively, some seniors have trouble choosing the right words during a stroke. When a senior suddenly experiences speech difficulties such as this, it could be a sign of a stroke.

As with all of the signs listed here, you should call 911 immediately if you noticed speech difficulties in a senior family member or loved one. A stroke is a serious medical condition that deprives the brain of oxygen. Therefore, timely medication treatment is essential to a positive prognosis.

Face Drooping

A stroke can cause face drooping. Face dropping — like speech difficulties — is even part of the National Stroke Association’s FAST acronym. The FAST acronym reflects several warning signs of a stroke, including face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulties. The closing T, on the other hand, refers to time, meaning you should act fast if you notice any of these signs by calling 911.

Face drooping is essentially paralysis of facial muscles. There are approximately 42 muscles in the face. Like all muscles in the human body, they are controlled by signals from the brain. When blood flow to the brain is restricted, a senior may experience loss of muscle control. The

Loss of Balance

Loss of balance or general vertigo can be a sign of a stroke. This typically occurs when the stroke affects the cerebellum. With the cerebellum failing to receive adequate blood flow, balance problems may manifest.

In seniors, loss of balance can cause other problems, such as fall injuries. Seniors who lose their balance during a stroke may fall and injure themselves. As a result, you should be on the lookout for loss of balance. Not only is it a sign of a stroke; it may lead to fall injuries.

Headache

Finally, a severe headache can be a sign of a stroke. Headaches caused by a stroke are often very painful, with some experts comparing them to full-blown migraines.

Headaches don’t always indicate a stroke. Most headaches, in fact, aren’t associated with a stroke. Nonetheless, you should be conscious of whether a senior family member or loved one has a headache. If it’s a severe headache with a rapid onset, it could be the result of a stroke.

Tips to Lower the Risk of a Stroke

If a senior family member or loved one exhibits any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Additionally, there are ways for seniors to lower their risk of a stroke. Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, for example, can lower the risk of a stroke. When a senior’s blood pressure is elevated, his or her arteries may become blocked — or they may burst. With healthy blood pressure levels, there’s less risk of arterial damage that could otherwise lead to a stroke.

Eating a diet with lots of vegetables can lower a senior’s risk of a stroke. Vegetables contain vitamins and essential nutrients that promote healthy blood flow. Other ways to lower the risk of a stroke include weight management, exercising regularly and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol.

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