May 6, 2014 8:08 AM by Elizabeth Hill
There are two major kinds of stroke.
"Some people will have the kind of stroke that's a blood clot, so it blocks the flow of oxygen to the brain. You can also have what's called a hemorrhagic stroke and that's when you have bleeding into the brain," explains neurologist Dr. Damon Patterson.
Both disrupt blood flow to the brain and if not treated quickly can be deadly.
"Some people go and try to sleep it off for example and then they wake up and they've gotten even worse, so just because something doesn't hurt doesn't mean it's not dangerous."
So how do you know if you or a loved one is having a stroke? All it takes is some "fast" thinking.
F.A.S.T. Is the acronym doctors use to educate patients about the warning signs of a stroke.
The letters stand for face, arm, speech and time. When someone is having a stroke you may notice drooping of the face or weakness in the arm. Sometimes speech can be slurred or difficult.
Perhaps the most important letter is the last one. It stands for time and when it comes to a stroke time is not on your side.
"we're talking millions of brain cells are dying very very quickly in a stroke, so the earlier you can get to the hospital the more that can be done."
About 80% of strokes are preventable with healthy habits like not smoking and maintaining low blood pressure and cholesterol and avoiding obesity.
"There's so much you can do, and getting exercise and all that, you can prevent this and avoid getting a potentially very catastrophic disease."
Dr. Patterson stresses that unlike with a heart attack where CPR can increase chances of survival, there is nothing that can be done by bystanders for someone suffering from a stroke.
He says that many people believe you can give someone aspirin to alleviate the clot, but points out that in the case of a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain, aspirin would actually make it worse. Bottom-line call 911 immediately if you notice the signs of a stroke.