In America, about 795,000 people suffer strokes each year—which means that one person has a stroke every four minutes.
Thankfully, research on strokes has begun in earnest in recent years, but there is of course still much to do.
One way to help is to donate money to more research, but learning the warning signs is also vitally important—because every fifth stroke patient shows warning signs 24 hours before the episode actually occurs.
Stroke is an umbrella term for cerebral infarction and cerebral hemorrhage. The brain's nerve cells are dependent on nutrients and oxygen through a network of blood vessels, and strokes often occur as the result of a blood clot, which totally or partially clogs some of the brain's arteries.
The symptoms often come suddenly, but many people feel that something is wrong long before the actual stroke.
1. High blood pressure
Many people with high blood pressure don't feel anything at all—but high blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for both cerebral infarction and cerebral hemorrhage.
High blood pressure can damage the small blood vessels in the brain, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak.
If you suspect you have high blood pressure, contact a health center, writes the Mayo Clinic.
2. A stiff neck
Bleeding in a blood vessel in the brain can cause a "stiff neck."
If you can't touch your chin to your chest and also have a violent headache, go to the doctor immediately.
3. Foot drop
Foot drop, or weakness or paralysis that limits the ability to raise the front part of your foot, may be the result of a stroke or damage to a nerve that runs from the knee down to the foot.
4. A splitting headache
Everyone suffers from headaches at some point in their life and there's usually nothing to worry about.
But if you suddenly have a severe headache without a clear cause, it may be important to go to hospital.
Splitting headaches without cause may be a precursor to stroke, according to the New York Times.
5. Paralysis hypoglycaemia
A developing paralysis on one side of the body can be a warning sign of a stroke, according to the New York Times. This symptom often occurs when someone suffers a stroke at night, but the symptoms can appear before bed.
This can be difficult to diagnose, but slight paralysis of one side, causing numbness in the feet and legs or slurred speech, is a warning sign not to be ignored.
6. Visual disturbances
Sudden visual defects in one or both eyes can be a sign that you are about to have a stroke.
7. Shoulder pain
Some people feel severe shoulder pain before a stroke, but they are not in the majority.
8. Premature fatigue
One symptom that may come hours before a stroke is extreme fatigue. Affected people sleep all the time, and in certain cases, the victim might be completely unconscious.
When in doubt, try the FAST test
If you don't work in health care, but still suspect that a person is having a stroke, try the so-called FAST test, writes the New York State Department of Health.
F = Face: Is one side of the face drooping down?
A = Arm: Can the person raise both arms, or is one arm weak?
S = Speech: Is speech slurred or confusing?
T = Time: Time is critical!! Call an ambulance immediately!
Remember that there are many different stroke symptoms and no one person experiences them all or even many of them at the same time.
But by paying attention to these eight warning signs, more lives can be saved in the future.
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