How do I know if I am having a stroke?

The stroke no warning. It appears suddenly, suddenly, and acts with breakneck speed. Blood stops supplying the brain and countless neurons die every second. Acting immediately is essential, so if you are reading this because you think you may be suffering from one, do not stop here. Call 112 and tell them what’s wrong, adopt a safe posture, where you can’t lose your balance, and leave the front door open to ensure that assistance is quickly accessed.

If this is not your case, it is that you are interested in knowing how to act if one day you have a stroke or someone close to you suffers one. Wise decision: stroke is the most common cause of death in Spain among women, and the second most common among men. Acting quickly and appropriately is essential to minimize its consequences, which is why the best way to avoid them is to know the symptoms that announce a potentially fatal visit well.

The first thing to know is that there are several types of strokes and that not all are treated the same, which means that you do not have to go to a hospital. There is no way to predict if the center will be prepared to deal with a particular problem, but emergency professionals can distinguish some clues that reveal where the most appropriate technical means are for each case. It is best to call an ambulance and wait for help. In the meantime, it is important to remain sitting or lying down, with your head as incorporated as possible. It is the only advice offered by the coordinator of the study group of cerebrovascular diseases of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN), María Alonso de Leciñana. It remains only to stay calm and keep a phone handy whenever possible.

When the blow is sudden, there is no time to waste

There are several symptoms that indicate that one could be suffering a stroke. They do not have to appear in a specific order, nor do they always manifest themselves. Sometimes only one appears, and very slight, but noticing that it suddenly emerges is enough reason to pick up the phone, call 112, and describe in detail what you are feeling. These are the symptoms that should put you on your guard.

A crooked smile does not deceive

One of the checks that doctors do to find out if they are dealing with a case of stroke is to raise the patient’s hands in the air and release them at the same time; if only one of them falls, they have reason to suspect. It happens because the stroke causes the body to run out of force or its sensitivity to be drastically reduced. One may feel nothing or notice a tingling like that of a leg when falling asleep . The loss of strength can be very slight, but that doesn’t matter; the thing to keep in mind is that it happens suddenly.

The sensation of losing strength or noticing a strange touch is noticeable in one half of the body because the lack of blood does not affect the entire brain. If you disrupt the right hemisphere, the left half of the body becomes paralyzed, and when it affects the left, it is the other that notices the effects.

This symptom is clearly manifested on the face. “The corner of the affected side freezes and falls, so it looks as if the mouth is crooked,” says Alonso de Leciñana. Ask a person to smile while having a stroke and you will have the definitive proof: only part of the lips will rise.

Talking inconsistently speaks volumes about what goes on in the brain

Stroke can cause a language disorder, which manifests itself in the inability to speak coherently or to understand what others are saying. Coupled with other symptoms, the inconsistency clearly indicates that the person is suffering from cerebral circulation disorder. “This happens when the stroke affects the left cerebral hemisphere, which is the one that controls language in most people,” explains the expert.

A less frequent symptom is the sudden loss of vision “that generally affects one side of the visual field, as if we were watching television and half went off,” says Alonso de Leciñana. It has nothing to do with myopia, nor is it that the vision of one eye is lost, but that half of what we see disappears in both when the circuit that integrates the visual stimuli is disabled. Only if you know what is happening you will see that time is running against you.

Like a stone in the head, this is how a stroke affects you

“Even if there is no loss of strength, one can start walking as if the feet are widely separated, being unable to maintain the footprint,” warns the SEN coordinator. Loss of posture control is not a frequent symptom, but it must be taken into account. In case of detecting that it happens suddenly, it is convenient to sit in a place where it is not possible to fall and look for company. If the stance fails, it is crucial to avoid unfortunate bumps.

In addition, there is a typical symptom of strokes caused by a very specific type of bleeding, which only causes between 3% and 5% of these episodes, according to the data managed by Alonso de Leciñana. It is sudden headache and intensity that few people have known. It may be the only symptom, “but when the patient is well enough to describe it, it does so as pain that he had never felt in his life, as something unbearable,” summarizes the expert. And it comes suddenly, like a stone in the head.

Apart from an alteration of consciousness, nausea and vomiting can accompany pain, so it is advisable to incorporate the head as much as possible when lying down, which avoids the risk of choking on your own vomit.

The origin is years ago: throw away the cigarette and take care of the diet

One of the most important risk factors is age, from the age of 65 the dreaded disease is more likely to occur. But youth does not always protect. “The prevalence of other risk factors and their poor control make these episodes also occur in young people,” warns the specialist. In any case, it is true that there are things we do better after 50, that one of them is to avoid it.

The objective is at hand. “90% of strokes can be prevented, and the best stroke is the one that never occurs,” says Alonso de Leciñana. Smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, having high blood pressure, high blood glucose or diabetes, overflowing with cholesterol and leading a sedentary lifestyle are the most common avoidable causes. Some heart conditions are also behind the episodes. Among them, Alonso de Leciñana highlights atrial fibrillation. “It is a type of arrhythmia that favors clots to form inside the heart, so that when they come out and cover an artery in the head, they produce the stroke,” he explains.

But identifying if any of the risk factors are present in our routine is not the only thing we can do. Alonso de Leciñana advises periodically going to the doctor because knowing that the tension and sugar levels are within correct parameters, and checking that the heart works well, is the best way to avoid the experience. And yes, it is possible to keep the brain young at any age.


Stroke is a disorder of the cerebral circulation that compromises the supply of blood to the brain. When an artery stops directing the vital fluid towards the organism of the organism, the activity of the proper functions of the affected area ceases. Symptoms appear suddenly and progress rapidly, so they must be stopped without wasting a second.

This sudden circulation disorder can be of two types. About 80% of strokes are strokes, also known as ischemic strokes. An artery becomes blocked, usually as a result of a thrombus, and cuts off the flow of blood that should make the brain work. The second type is the one caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. In this case, the blood does not reach its destination because it overflows before doing so.

Since there are many types of strokes and they cannot be distinguished only by their symptoms, if they appear it is important to call 112 instead of going to a hospital, since emergency professionals know where they can treat each case better and faster.


by Abdullah Sam
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