How to Tell If You’re Having a Stroke – and What to Do

Senior woman is aware of the signs of stroke and the treatments for it.

In support of creating greater awareness and knowledge about heart and stroke, we take a look at the signs of having a stroke, why it’s essential to get treatment fast and how to lower your risk of having one.

Stroke is a major health concern in Canada. Did you know that there are over 62,000 strokes every year and currently around 405,000 people are living with its effects? This number (to us at least) was rather surprising.

While stroke can happen at any age, the risk of having a stroke doubles every decade after you reach the age of 55, so Canadians need to be particularly aware of strokes, understanding the warning signs, especially as they age.

What is stroke?

There are in fact three types of stroke. An ischemic attack is when a blood vessel bringing oxygen to the brain is blocked. When the blockage happens for only a short time, it is called a transient ischemic attack or TIA, also known as a mini stroke. When a blood vessel bursts open in the brain it is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

Each stroke causes a lack of oxygen that damages the brain cells that the blood vessel is supposed to be serving. The parts of the body that those brain cells are responsible for stop working.

The effects of having a stroke can range from fairly moderate to long-term disabilities and even fatalities. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada.

Knowing the tell-tale signs can save a life

Getting to a hospital quickly after having a stroke is essential. Receiving treatment within four-and-a-half hours of a stroke gives you a better chance of survival and of reducing any long-term disability. The faster you are administered with clot-removing drugs or have the clot surgically removed, the fewer the brain cells that could be potentially destroyed and the less long-term damage you will face.

These are the most typical signs of having a stroke that you should look out for, that follow the FAST acronym:

Face – if it is drooping

Arms – if you can’t raise one of both of them

Speech – if it is slurred

Time to call 911 if you experience any of the above

Other symptoms can include sudden changes in your abilities such as; numbness on one side of the face or body; confusion or difficulty understanding; dizziness or loss of balance; a sudden, extreme headache; and trouble seeing or loss of vision.

If you or someone you are with show any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Acting quickly can limit the long-term effects or save a life.

How to know if you’re at risk of having a stroke – and ways to avoid it

There are a number of risk factors that can bring about a stroke. Certain health conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and diabetes can all increase your chances of a stroke. Also, the older you get the higher the risks of having a stroke.

While some stroke risk factors are out of your hands, such as family history of the disease, it’s estimated that around 80% of incidents of both heart disease and stroke can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Here are some of the ways you can reduce your chances of having a stroke :

  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet of fruit and vegetables, whole grains and a variety of proteins, while avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks
  • Exercise for around 20 minutes a day (that could just include a brisk walk or a more relaxing activity like yoga)
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight (being overweight or obese is a major risk factor)
  • Refrain from smoking
  • Reduce your stress levels (here are some tips )
  • Maintain low blood pressure through a healthy lifestyle and/or medication

Living with the effects of a stroke

The good news is that 83% of Canadians who have a stroke do survive. Unfortunately, many survivors will have disabilities that can take years to overcome. They can become bedridden and have difficulty walking, talking and eating. Five years after a stroke, 40% of stroke survivors need help with simple activities like bathing. Over the next 20 years, the number of Canadians living with the effects of a stroke is expected to rise to as many as 726,000.

For those survivors who are determined to return home after a stroke, the recovery process can be costly. In-home care or having renovations to make their home more accessible can cost tens of thousands of dollars. So what options do they have?

If you’re 55 or over, own your home and need financial help to recover from a stroke or other medical condition, the CHIP Reverse Mortgage® could be the ideal solution. You can borrow up to 55% of your home’s value, without having to make any regular mortgage payments. It helps you focus on getting better without affecting your retirement income.

Contact us at 1-866-522-2447 to find out how much you could qualify for.

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