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Helpful lessons for stroke awareness and survival

| Healthy You | Aging Well

Man at a physical therapy appointment.

Resources and support for stroke survivors and caregivers.

If you learn anything from this article, we hope that it’s what BE FAST means, how a stroke may be preventable and to not give up after a stroke.

A stroke is sometimes known as a “brain attack.” It happens when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. It's vital to learn how to spot a stroke.

First up, BE FAST

BE FAST is an acronym that health experts encourage everyone to memorize. It stands for:

  • Balance: A sudden loss of balance.
  • Eyes: A sudden loss of vision in one of both eyes.
  • Face: Unevenness or droop to one side of the face.
  • Arms: Arm or leg weakness or numbness. Raise both arms. Does one arm drift down?
  • Speech: Slurred or strange speech. Repeat a phrase. Does the person’s speech sound different?
  • Time: Call 911! Each second counts during a stroke.

Seek help immediately if you or someone you know has stroke symptoms.

Next up, how can you prevent a stroke?

A whopping 80% of strokes can be prevented. How do you do that? By taking steps to lower your risk such as:

  • Managing blood pressure and cholesterol, including lowering it if needed.
  • Staying at a healthy weight.
  • Making time for daily walks, exercise or other physical activity like mowing the lawn.
  • Avoiding tobacco and smoking.
  • Managing diabetes or other health concerns.

Knowing your family history can be helpful. Genetic factors cause some strokes. For example, if a grandparent had a stroke, then your personal risk may be higher.

Along with talking to a doctor, a stroke risk assessment is a good place to start understanding your risk. After answering 10 questions, you will get a number that shows your chances of a stroke. You can then share the results with your doctor.

Finally, never give up.

Even if you can't prevent a stroke, it's helpful to keep in mind that people can recover from strokes. If you or a loved one has a stroke, you can take steps to begin healing. Consider the following lifestyle changes to help heal body and mind:

Get rest

Allowing your body the proper time to rest and relax is fundamental to your well-being. Your body will tell you the pace that you should go. Napping, lying down or sitting quietly for 15 minutes can go a long way.

Participate in activities

While the activity may look different than what you were used to or may be completely different, in general it’s key to try something new to engage your brain and help with mobility:

  • Paint
  • Play with clay
  • Read out loud
  • Garden
  • Listen to or play music

A stroke can affect people differently. It may cause weakening in one side of the body or make it difficult to speak. Tools can help bridge the gap or assist in these situations.

Many devices and gadgets are available to aid your activity and help you do what you need to do. Some you’ll discover and perhaps create with things already in your home. Many items can be found through a support group, thrift store, local city agency or at an occupational therapist’s office.

  • Knob for steering wheel to help with driving
  • Pull toggle closure on shoes
  • Hair clips instead of ponytail holders
  • Jar openers
  • Rounded knives

Keep good company

While it may be tempting to withdraw after a stroke, it’s helpful to be around people to prevent loneliness. Others need and want to be in your company.

Think about joining a stroke support group via the American Stroke Association. A support group offers many benefits, including tips, advice or a listening ear from people who have experienced what you’re going through.