With May upon us, many of us are enjoying a break from the cold and the arrival of spring flowers. May is also National Stroke Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to educate yourself on its warning signs, complications and risk factors. A little extra knowledge and preparation just may save a life.

What Exactly is a Stroke?

A stroke wreaks havoc on the brain but begins in the blood. Strokes are caused by one of two things: a blockage stopping blood flow to the brain or the bursting of a blood vessel in or around the brain. Strokes occur roughly every four seconds in the U.S. –  around 800,000 people suffer from one each year. It is the fourth leading cause of death, after heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease.

What are the Warning Signs I Should Look Out For?

Responding quickly and appropriately to apparent stroke symptoms can reduce long-term effects. Medical experts have created the acronym FAST to help you know what to be on the alert for:

F Facial weakness and/or numbness, especially on one side
A Arm weakness and/or numbness, especially on one side
S – Slurred speech and/or difficulty speaking
T – Time to call 911

What Should I Do if I Think Someone is Having a Stroke?

First, as noted with the FAST acronym, call 911 immediately. Time is of the essence. Next, write down the time the stroke occurred; this information will help medical providers. Jot down any medications taken by the patient and bring them with you to the hospital if possible. Do not give the patient any food or medicine. Finally, remember staying calm is paramount while you wait for help. Minnesota Home Health Care providers are trained to detect warning signs and get the help needed immediately.

How Else Can I Prepare Myself and Loved Ones?

Besides knowing the warning signs, there are other ways to prepare yourself. Keep a list with the names and numbers of medical providers on hand as well as any medications taken and their dosages.

For folks with older relatives, having a Minnesota home health care specialist who monitors the health of your loved ones can literally be a life saver! Whether your Matrix health specialist is in your home or at the Minnesota Residential Home Health Care Home, they’re ready to provide immediate support and assistance.