Sometimes we experience weird symptoms that, especially if fleeting, are easily dismissed. Think about dizziness, severe headache, and vision disruption, all of which happen suddenly but may disappear just as quickly. While such signs can be easy to ignore or explain away, don’t.
The National Institutes on Aging caution that symptoms lasting just a few minutes could be caused by a TIA, or transient ischemic attack, also known as a ministroke. This is still an emergency situation and calling 911 is the best course of action. When a TIA is left untreated, it could be followed by a major stroke.
If you have any of these symptoms, even if they vanish after a few minutes, call 911 immediately.
• Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg — especially on one side of the body.
• Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding.
• Sudden problems seeing in one eye or both eyes.
• Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble walking.
• Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Just remember to think F.A.S.T. — Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911.
A stroke can be devastating and life changing. The sooner treatment is administered, the better. The National Institutes on Aging offer some advice to reduce your risk even if you are in perfect health.
Keep your blood pressure under control and know your numbers. Have it checked often and if it’s high, follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
If you smoke, stop. It is never too late to give up the habit. My grandmother quit at 87 and lived almost 10 more years. It can be done.
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in the blood that can build up on artery walls. If your cholesterol is high, take it seriously and work to lower it. This fat can block blood flow and lead to a stroke.
Uncontrolled or untreated diabetes can damage blood vessels, which can lead to narrowing of the arteries and, again, stroke.
The old standbys of eating healthy foods low in saturated fats and exercising apply as well.
Seems that as we age we have to work harder to remain healthy. For information on stroke, contact the American Stroke Association toll-free at 1-888-478-7653 or visit www.strokeassociation.org.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.