Here’s what you can learn from one survivor’s mistakes
Stroke. It wasn’t something I ever thought about as a young, healthy woman. In my mind, stroke was associated with old age and men. That was my first mistake.
My second mistake was shaking off stroke symptoms because I thought it couldn’t happen to me. I had the worst headache of my life, but I convinced myself I was just tired and stressed from a busy holiday season at work and home. When I slurred my speech twice in a meeting at work and my vision got blurry, I paused for a few minutes but kept charging ahead because I thought my symptoms were a side effect of pounding headache.
These mistakes almost took my life. That’s why I want my experience to serve as a lesson because it could help save your life, the life of someone you care about or even a stranger. Here’s what you can learn from me.
Strokes can occur at any age from babies and teens to young adults and women. They can also happen at any time.
One in 5 women has a stroke. Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in women. Among women, black women have the highest prevalence of stroke.
Stroke is a medical emeregency. If you have any of the symptoms - you only need one - call 911. Check out the graphic at the bottom of this page to learn stroke symptoms. Also, if you have the "worst headache of your life" seek help immediately.
80% of strokes are preventable. Know these 5 numbers - Blood Sugar, Total Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, HDL (good) Cholesterol & Body Mass Index (BMI).
Stroke happens when a clot or rupture interrupts blood flow to the brain. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die. You lose nearly 1 million brain cells every minute a stroke is untreated.
Having a stroke increases the risk of a second one. In fact, 1 in 4 survivors will have another stroke. Prevention is important for survivors.
High blood pressure is the most common controllable cause of stroke. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. Read the American Heart Association's Facts about High Blood Pressure.
Stroke strikes people of all ages
Many times when I share my story, the first thing people say to me is “You don’t look like someone who could have a stroke. I thought mostly older men had strokes.” Think again. Stroke affects everyone from babies and teens to young adults and women of all ages.
According to the American Stroke Association, 1 in 5 women will have a stroke in her lifetime. In fact, more women have strokes than men and stroke kills more women than men. What you also might not know is that stroke is among one of the top 10 causes of death in children.
Another important fact to be aware of is that stroke is on rise in young adults. Why? Some doctors and researchers attribute this to an upswing in common stroke risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use and obesity. Adding to this is that many young people are blowing off screening tests for things like cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar because they don’t think they need them until they are older.
Learn from me that stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Additionally, you should always know your numbers and get your annual wellness check.
Stroke symptoms are easy to remember – think FAST
Another thing I learned from my experience is that stroke is largely treatable. The faster people are treated, the more likely they are to recover. Nearly 2 million brain cells die every minute that a stroke is untreated.
The American Stroke Association says that 2 out of 3 times it’s a bystander who makes the decision to call 911 on behalf of someone suffering a stroke. So, how do you know if someone is having a stroke? After my stroke, I learned the FAST test to check for the common symptoms of a stroke. Check out this graphic… it’s easy to remember.
Learn from me that you should seek medical help immediately even if you have any one of these symptoms. Additionally, if you ever have the “worst headache of your life” like I did get the ER as fast as possible.
What You Don’t Know About Stroke Could Kill You
It can’t happen to me.
Looking back, there were signs something was wrong with my health in the days leading up to my stroke. I didn’t address it because I was busy and had a long to-do list I wanted to check off.
After I had the slurred speech in the meeting, I glanced at myself in the mirror and thought, “wow I look terrible.” I noticed a new feature in my left eye that looked like a red lightning bolt. But again, I made excuses. I was tired. I was overworked. I was stressed. I also didn’t want to believe that something could be wrong with me. That is a scary thing to face.
As it turns out, I was a statistic you hear about and say, “Oh, that won’t happen to me.” I was in 1 in 100,000 people each year who have a carotid artery dissection. One of the main pathways that delivers blood from my heart to my brain broke causing a 90% blockage and mini-stroke. We don’t know why, it just happened. My body tried to tell me I needed help, but I waited until it was almost too late.
Learn from me to always put your health first. If something doesn’t feel right, after all who knows your body better than you, don’t wait to get help. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to be in this world.
By Stacy Quinn
Stroke Family Warmline: 1-888-4-STROKE; Available Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (CT)
Contact your local hospital to ask about groups in your area