Warning signs of stroke and the importance of fast treatment

May 18, 2020

If you or a loved one is having a stroke, it’s important to act fast and seek emergency care. Learn to recognize the warning signs, as well as how to reduce your risk of having a stroke.

May is American Stroke Month — an annual campaign that raises awareness about common warning signs of stroke. It also stresses the importance of seeking medical attention immediately if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these signs.

Recognizing these warning signs and knowing how to react can help prevent disability from stroke — and even save a life. And while some people may feel hesitant or fearful to seek emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Heart Association and other major national organizations are stressing the importance of calling 911 at the first sign of a stroke or heart attack, even in the midst of our current health crisis.

Know the signs

A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area in the brain is cut off, causing brain cells to die. The most effective treatments are available only if the stroke is diagnosed within three hours of the first symptoms. To recognize the signs of a stroke, remember the acronym FAST:

F - Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

A - Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb?

S - Speech difficulty: Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand?

T - Time to call 911: If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, call 911 and go to a hospital immediately.

Other signs that someone may be having a stroke and should seek immediate medical attention include

  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
  • sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination; and
  • sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Know your risk

Fortunately, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. You can reduce your risk by making healthy choices, such as avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol use, and getting enough exercise.

Stroke risk factors include your family history, gender, ethnicity, and age, among others. In addition, the following conditions can increase your risk for a stroke:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • diabetes

How to manage your risk

If you have one of these conditions, managing it properly can help lower your risk for stroke. If you have medical coverage through the Board of Pensions, learn about and take advantage of the benefits and programs available to help manage these conditions.

For example, if you’re enrolled in the PPO, EPO, or HDHP medical options, you have access to

  • the Livongo for Diabetes Program;
  • additional preventive office visits for blood pressure management;
  • consultations with a network registered dietician;
  • Call to Health; and
  • reduced copays for select preventive medications, including insulin and non-insulin drugs to treat diabetes and medications to prevent heart disease, blood clots, and high blood pressure.

Get more details about these benefits and other features of medical coverage through the Board of Pensions.