I have been staring into nothingness for hours. Thoughts come and go, floating past like autumn leaves on a burbling stream.
For the first time in my life I feel vulnerable. In spite of my lifelong healthy diet, regular exercise and mindfulness… I’ve had a stroke. Two actually, but who’s counting?
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women; 55,000 more women than men die each year from strokes. I didn’t see mine coming and didn’t even recognize it when it did, but first, a quick primer:
♥️There are different types of strokes: one caused by a blood clot is an Ischemic Stroke. If it’s caused by a blood vessel rupturing, it’s called a Hemorrhagic Stroke and a TIA (transient ischemic attack) is caused by a temporary blood clot.
♥️There are known risk factors, some completely within your control: being overweight, lack of exercise, eating a high-fat diet and cigarette smoking. Others include high blood pressure (keep it below 140/90), diabetes (with blood sugar levels above 7), high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
♥️There are risk factors specific to women: pregnancy, taking birth control pills, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and risk factors stronger in women: having migraines with auras, atrial fibrillation, diabetes mellitus, lupus, depression and psychosocial stress.
Please commit this to memory: Currently the only acute treatment for stroke is with a clot-busting drug known as tPA, which must be administered within 2.5 hours of the onset of a stroke!
- FASTER = FACE. ARMS. STABILITY. TALKING. EYES. REACT!
- FACE: drooping, uneven smile or brows, can’t stick out tongue evenly.
- ARMS: weakness, numbness or tingling on one side. Can’t raise them and hold them in place for a count of ten.
- STABILITY: can you stand? Are you off-balance?
- TALKING: difficulties, slurring and unable to pronounce words or repeat a sentence.
- EYES: blurring, double-vision, pupils differ, visual field effects, loss of sight.
- REACT: call AN AMBULANCE immediately! Do not drive yourself.
OTHER STROKE INDICATORS:
- NAUSE, VOMITING
- DIFFICULTY SWALLOWING. You can’t drink a glass of water.
- VERTIGO: dizzy, spinning
- UNIQUE SYMPTOMS IN WOMEN: FAINTING, SHORTNESS OF BREATH, CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR, NAUSEA OR VOMITING, FEELING AGITATED, HICCUPS, OR SEIZURES
I woke at 4:30 am with my left forearm half-asleep and tingly. Then the left side of my face begin tingling. I turned on my bathroom lights to observe my face – I saw no asymmetry: I smiled, raised my eyebrows, stuck out my tongue, stood on one foot, then the other. I held my hands out in front of me and counted to 10. No headache, no nausea. No blurry vision.
Because I didn’t know then that tingling was one of the FASTER stroke indicators, I didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, I went back to bed.
When I went to my doctor 48 hour’s later, she sent me to the ER for an MRI of my brain and neck (not suspecting a stroke), and an Echocardiogram to see what was making my heartbeat wildly irregular. Everyone was surprised… I had two small strokes!
I have stopped HRT (with no ill effects); I’m taking two new medications and wearing a heart monitor for 30 days. I consider myself lucky. If you need to, lose that extra weight, stop smoking, find a friend to walk with and monitor your health issues carefully. Do it for yourself. And do it for those who love you.