Knowing she was at risk for stroke made Patty Borkowski’s daily headaches worrisome. How do you tell a headache brought on by eye strain or an afternoon drop in blood sugar and from a medical emergency?
“At approximately 3:15 every afternoon, I thought I was suffering a stroke. I'd be at the computer pounding away and my eyes would get so sore and then that was when my imagination would start to take over. I would pull away from the computer, put my head onto my hands and think, “Oh, it's 3:12 -- it's almost time for my stroke!” And then perspective would come back and I would force myself to do a mini assessment where you smile, say your name and put your hands over your head.
But it was amazing how this daily stroke became a routine, to the point where my assistant would walk by and look at me with my head on my hands and say, 'Oh gosh, is it stroke time already?'”
Having a simple test is comforting and it is so simple a common lay person could help determine if it is time to call 911.
“A stroke is a medical emergency,” says Eliz Greene, Director of the Embrace Your Heart Wellness Initiative. “The quicker you get help, the better your chances of recovery. There are great new drugs and treatments available, but you need to get help right away.”
Three Important Questions:
Can you smile?
Look closely -- if one side of the face is drooping, then it is time to call 911.
Can you say your name?
If the speech is slurred or difficult to understand call 911.
Can you raise BOTH hands over your head?
If only one is up, it is time to call 911.
During a stoke the brain is starved of oxygen because the blood flow is blocked by a clot or a burst blood vessel. When the brain is deprived of oxygen it starts to die. Knowing the warning signs of stroke can make the difference between recovery and disability or death.
Stroke symptoms arise suddenly and according to the American Stroke Association include:
* Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
* Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Experiencing even one of the symptoms is a sign to get help immediately.
Women are at high risk for stroke; in fact, every six minutes a woman dies of stroke.
To reduce your risk of all cardiovascular diseases including stroke:
* Eat a well-balanced diet
* Be active
* Avoid tobacco
* Monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol
* Manage stress
That headache every afternoon may not be a stroke, but it may indicate you need to better manage your stress.
Tips for managing the afternoon headache:
Take a break from the computer every twenty minutes.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Ten deep breaths with your eyes closed will decrease eye strain.
Get up every hour.
Even if you just stand up and do a few deep knee bends, move your body and get your blood flowing.
Have a snack:
Fuel your brain with a healthy snack such as a handful of dried fruit and nuts (you could even add a few heart-healthy dark chocolate chips!)
See your doctor:
If you are experiencing daily headaches, get yourself a check up.
Seek Immediate Help:
If you are experiencing any sudden changes, or fail the three important questions, call 911.
Read more about the Patient's Perspective on Blood Thinners in the Patient's Perspective Magazine or download the Special Report on headaches and stroke. You may also listen to the discussion on headaches and stoke or the full conversation on blood thinners.
Please share your thoughts on headaches and stroke or suggest topics for future Patient's Perspective calls by making a comment below. Thanks!
The Patient's Perspective is a monthly teleconference addressing the challenges faced by women living with heart disease. The teleconferences are hosted by Eliz Greene, Director of the Embrace Your Heart Wellness Initiative. Find out more at www.EmbraceYourHeart.com
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