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Prisma Health On Call: Your stroke questions, answered

You asked, Prisma Health stroke experts answered.

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A close up of a neurosurgeon in scrubs.

Prisma Health specialists are here to answer your stroke-related questions.

Photo provided by Prisma Health

Did you know? South Carolina is the buckle of the “stroke belt,” a geographical area where strokes are more common — even among young people, and especially in women. That’s why it’s important to know your risk factors and understand ways to decrease them.

We recently asked our readers (that’s you) to send us stroke-related questions for this month’s installment of Prisma Health On Call. Now, Prisma Health physicians are back with the answers, including expert knowledge about risks, rumors, recovery, and more.

How can I tell if someone is having a stroke?

Use the BE FAST tool, which stands for:

  • B – Balance off/dizzy
  • E – Eyes blurred
  • F – Face drooping
  • A – Arm weakness
  • S – Speech difficulty
  • T – Time to call 911

Every second counts when it comes to stroke. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately and ask to be taken to the closest Stroke Center.

At what age should I begin to worry about my risk of having a stroke?

Anyone can have a stroke at any age. In fact, stroke is the sixth leading cause of death among people under 18 years old. Learn more about strokes in children.

Who is more likely to have a stroke — men or women?

The risk of stroke is higher among women. Stroke is the third leading cause of death among women (for men, it’s the fifth leading cause of death). Women are also more likely to have another stroke within five years of their first stroke. Learn why.

What habits can I start now to lessen my risk of stroke?

There are several lifestyle-related risk factors that increase your risk of stroke, including high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm), tobacco use, and more. Changing your behaviors and being screened regularly by your primary care physician can go a long way in stroke prevention.

Can stress trigger a stroke?

Stress can trigger the release of a hormone called cortisol that can alter your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This could result in problems with hypertension and diabetes that increase your chances of a stroke. Get tips on managing stress.

What are the best and worst things I can do if I see someone experiencing a stroke?

If someone is having a stroke, do not wait. Immediately call 911.

Is it true you can have a stroke and not know it?

Stroke is a clinical diagnosis that presents with different signs and symptoms based on the location of brain injury, typically due to a clogged artery in the brain. It is possible to have injury to the brain from a blocked blood vessel that doesn’t cause any symptoms, however, see the BE FAST acronym for signs and symptoms that occur most often.

How are strokes treated?

Strokes can be treated using medications to break up the blood clot or surgery to remove the blood clot. But “time is brain,” and the treatment options are determined by how much time has gone by since the stroke occurred. Learn more about the treatments available at Prisma Health’s certified stroke centers.

Will having a stroke change what I can and can’t do?

Everyone is different and every stroke is different, but strokes can cause significant changes, including issues with movement, speaking, swallowing, vision, memory, and behavior. The effects of a stroke depend primarily on the location of the stroke and the amount of brain tissue affected.

Will my deficits be permanent?

Some deficits caused by stroke can be permanent, but others can be helped with rehab. Getting care from a specialized therapist as soon as possible is important. Learn how rehab can help after a stroke.

How can I lower my risk of having another stroke?

There are multiple stroke risk factors that can reduce your risk of stroke, including controlling your diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. For smokers, quitting can greatly reduce your risk of stroke as well. Lifestyle changes that also help include following the Mediterranean diet and exercising at a moderate intensity 40 minutes per week.

What tips do you have for caring for a parent recovering from a stroke?

Recovery from a stroke can be a long process, depending on the severity of the stroke. It can be extremely difficult seeing a loved one go through it. Finding a support network is important for caregivers. This includes support groups as well as family and friends who are nearby and can help you out if you need a break or time to run an errand. Get caregiver tips and learn how rehab can help in stroke recovery here.

Thank you Catherine McClung Smith, MD; Dery Miller, MD; Souvik Sen, MD; Rachel Kennedy, FNP; Emise Simon, MD; Forrest J. Lowe, MD; Gina Gleissner, OTD; and Shawn Moore, MD for sharing your knowledge + expertise.