How to Know If You Are Having a Brain Stroke!

Dr. Dinesh Chaudhari

New Delhi, January 24-Stroke is a disease that affects the blood vessels (pipes) within the brain. It is one of the leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability worldwide.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or when the blood vessel bursts (or ruptures). When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so the involved brain cells die which leads to a stroke. Because stroke occurs rapidly and requires immediate treatment, stroke is also called a brain attack.

When the symptoms of a stroke last only a short time (less than an hour), this is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke.

The effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is injured, and how severely it is injured. Strokes may cause sudden weakness, loss of sensation, or difficulty with speaking, seeing, or walking.

Since different parts of the brain control different areas and functions, it is usually the area immediately surrounding the stroke that is affected. The types of strokes include:

Ischemic Stroke (part of the brain loses blood flow)
Hemorrhagic Stroke (bleeding occurs within the brain)

Identifying stroke symptoms and immediate medical action can prevent serious stroke complications. The acronym BE FAST is a handy technique to help you quickly recognize common signs of a stroke. This outlines questions to ask about the tell-tale signs your friend or loved one may be having a stroke, plus action to take.

What are ‘BE FAST for stroke’ symptoms?

Balance – Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?

Eyes – Is there sudden blurred or double vision or sudden, persistent vision trouble?

Face – Ask the person to smile. Is one or both sides of the face drooping?

Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one side drift downward? Is there weakness or numbness on one side?

Speech – Does the person have slurred or garbled speech? Can he/she repeat simple phrases?

Time – Call for immediate medical attention if you notice one or more of these signs. Also, take note of when symptoms began.

We can’t overstate the importance of the “T” for time factor. It’s the only part of the acronym that isn’t a symptom, but it’s vital to include – because quick action is key to treatments that can be offered for strokes. Rush to hospital if you experience any of these symptoms and while you do so, always ‘be fast’.

(The writer is Associate Consultant Neurology, Department of Neurosciences,
Indraprastha Apollo Hospital)

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