Steps to Take When You Think You Are Having a Stroke

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A stroke is a medical emergency so it is important to be aware of the signs and to call an ambulance immediately if you think that you (or someone else) might be having a stroke. The faster that you get treatment for a stroke, the better the chances of limiting the effects and saving your life.

Signs of a Stroke

A stroke occurs when one of the blood vessels that supplies the brain becomes blocked, preventing oxygen from reaching it. Without a good supply of oxygenated blood, the brain cells can be damaged or even killed. The effects can depend on how long the blockage persists and which parts of the brain have been affected.

Common symptoms of a stroke include:

  • drooping or weakness on one side of the face
  • not being able to smile normally
  • arm weakness – if you lift both arms up then one of them may slowly droop down even while you’re trying to hold it up
  • speech problems such as slurring or difficulty understanding words
  • changes in the vision of one eye
  • a very severe headache
  • feeling confused
  • not being able to walk or balance properly due to dizziness or lack of coordination

The symptoms of a stroke often appear suddenly, but in some cases, they can develop more slowly over the course of several hours. Sometimes the symptoms can disappear quickly as the blood flow to the brain is restored. This is known as a ministroke and it can indicate that you are at high risk of having a more serious stroke soon, so it is important to seek medical help even if you start feeling better.

What to Do If You Suspect a Stroke

If you think that you or someone else might be having a stroke or ministroke then you should call an ambulance right away. You need medical care as soon as possible to confirm what is happening and to ensure you get the right treatment. If you’re alone and having trouble speaking then you should try to make some noise, tap on the phone, or press “55” when you are prompted to, in order to ensure the operator knows you need help.

The operator will advise you on what to do while you’re waiting for the ambulance to arrive. It is important to stay calm and avoid any strenuous activities. If someone is there with you then they can help you to loosen any clothing around your neck that could make it harder for you to breathe and assist you to lie down on your side with a cushion or other support to keep your head slightly raised and a blanket to keep you warm. They can also ensure that the door is unlocked and guide the ambulance crew to you when they arrive. You shouldn’t try to drink water or take any medicine (even aspirin). The best thing you can do is to wait and rest as much as possible.

How Can a Person Know if Their Arteries Are Clogged?

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Blocked arteries can cause serious problems if they prevent blood from reaching vital parts of the body such as the heart or brain. However, the symptoms of blocked arteries aren’t always obvious until they cause a life-threatening issue such as a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes the only way to know if your arteries are clogged is to undergo a screening test such as a carotid Doppler ultrasound, which can check for blockages that might put you at risk of a stroke.

Coronary Artery Disease - Cardiac Screen

Why Do Arteries Get Clogged?

Clogged arteries occur because of a condition known as atherosclerosis, which happens when fatty material from the blood sticks to the inside of the arteries. Over time, enough of this material can build up that it starts to affect the flow of blood. The effects of this can depend on the location of the blockage. Clogged arteries can be particularly dangerous when they affect blood supplying the heart or brain as these organs need continuous supplies of oxygen to keep functioning properly.

Signs of Clogged Arteries

Clogged arteries don’t always cause any obvious symptoms so the problem is often missed unless it causes a medical emergency such as a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes there can be warning signs that an artery is blocked before it causes a serious event. Angina occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel supplying the heart. It can cause symptoms such as chest pain, breathlessness, heart palpitations and sweating, which may be triggered by physical activity. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) or mini-strokes can occur when there is a blockage affecting the brain. The symptoms can include temporary weakness on one side of your body, loss of vision in one eye, or slurred speech. Angina can be a sign that you are at risk of a heart attack while a TIA is a warning that you are at risk of a major stroke, so it is vital to take these symptoms seriously and see a doctor.

Tests for Clogged Arteries

Cardiac screening can reveal whether you are at risk of clogged arteries by testing for issues such as high cholesterol that can increase the chances of fatty deposits accumulating in your blood vessels. If you are at high risk, you’re experiencing issues such as angina, or you’ve already had a stroke or heart attack, then there are some tests that can look inside your arteries to check for blockages. At the Cardiac Screen clinic, we can use ultrasounds to look for signs of blockages. An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart that can help us to assess the risk of heart disease while a carotid Doppler ultrasound allows us to measure the flow of blood through the arteries that supply your brain. The carotid Doppler scan is used to evaluate the risk of a stroke. If any issues are detected during these tests, treatment may help to improve the blood flow through your clogged arteries and reduce the risks.