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Get Smart About Strokes

Yes, no one really wants to think about strokes.

But stroke is the second leading cause of death for those over the age of 60, according to the World Health Organization.

Another startling statistic: 1.9 million brain cells die per minute after a stroke. So it’s no surprise that stroke is the leading cause of adult disability, which could mean paralysis, depression, pain, memory loss, and language problems.

Moreover, Canadians’ understanding of stroke is poor. Only one-third can describe what a stroke is, according to a Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada poll. Just one-fifth of respondents identified high blood pressure as a main risk factor for stroke. It’s actually the number one risk factor.

That same study ( found that most Canadians also don’t know that smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, and obesity are risk factors for stroke.

Zero warning

And since strokes often come with no warning and strike quickly, you have no time when there’s an emergency to Google “stroke symptoms” or “stroke what to do.”

It’s better to be prepared by depositing some simple information into your memory that you can tap in a crisis.

Take five minutes to understand the basics. One day the knowledge could save your own or a loved one’s life.


Speed --FAST – is king when it comes to reducing the effects of a stroke. 

You’ve likely seen the F.A.S.T. billboards and ads.  The acronym is designed to help people recognize and respond to the most obvious stroke symptoms.

They stand for:

Face Drooping-- Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?

Arm -- Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty -- Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue" or to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.  Are the sentences correct?

Time to call 9-1-1 -- If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 ASAP. Also, check the time of the symptoms’ onset. The emergency room doctors will want to know.

Other symptoms that come on suddenly that also can indicate a stroke include:

  • Confusion or trouble understanding  
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, and loss of balance or coordination 
  • A severe headache with no known cause

Need for speed

Preventing damage and long-term disability is the reason why getting patients to the emergency room quickly is crucial.

In many cases, clot-busting medications can reverse or minimize the effects of a stroke. But those drugs need to be given within a few hours of the stroke’s onset for greatest effectiveness.