Six ‘early’ signs of a stroke that could appear a week before

Stroke: CDC outlines the main signs and how to respond

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Many people die from a stroke because the brain cannot survive without a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood. Therefore, it’s imperative to treat the medical emergency as soon as possible. With minutes being able to mean all the difference, awareness of early symptoms is front and centre.

A stroke’s life-threatening nature is partly owed to its ability to strike out of nowhere.

Despite its unpredictable behaviour, a study, published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, shares the “early” signs of an ischaemic stroke that can crop up a week before the medical emergency.

Considered the most common type of stroke, ischaemic strokes are triggered by a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.

The study explains that 80 percent of strokes are ischaemic and often preceded by a so-called warning stroke or mini stroke.

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Mini strokes are common terms used to describe a transient ischaemic attack (TIA).

Professor Louise Connell, clinical-academic physiotherapist at The University of Central Lancashire, said: “A mini stroke and an actual stroke are both caused by a disruption of the blood supply to the brain. They are often caused by blood clots. 

“In fact, the only difference between a stroke and a mini stroke (TIA) is that a mini stroke is temporary, and your blood supply manages to find a way through.”

Looking at 2,416 people, the research found that mini strokes occurred in 549 patients before the actual emergency struck.

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Furthermore, around 43 percent of the participants with mini strokes experienced the “early” signs at some point during the week leading to the full-blown stroke.

According to the study findings, the warning signs to be aware of include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or problems understanding
  • Sudden difficulty speaking
  • Sudden vision difficulty in one or both eyes
  • Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or difficulty walking
  • Sudden, severe headache with no apparent cause.

Professor Connell said: “When experiencing a mini stroke, at the time you probably won’t be able to differentiate it between a stroke.

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“So, you must treat any possible signs of a stroke or mini stroke as a medical emergency.

“Thinking ‘FAST’ prompts you to consider if the person can smile, can they raise both arms and can they speak clearly. If you experience any of these signs, you must call 999.”

The good news is that medical intervention could help stop a mini stroke from becoming a full-blown one.

“Medical treatment can include removing clots in your neck (carotid artery) before they cause a stroke, and treating things that increase the likelihood of stroke (like high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, giving blood thinning medication),” the professor added.

How to prevent a stroke

From a healthy diet to exercise, lifestyle changes can be very effective at reducing your risk of the medical emergency.

The NHS recommends a low-fat, high-fibre diet, that is rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. 

You should also keep your salt intake under six grams a day, as the popular ingredient is a major cause of blood pressure, which is the precursor of strokes.

Furthermore, quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol and picking up exercise could also help.

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