A stroke can be a scary thing for seniors and their family members. To help you be better prepared for the possibility of a stroke, review this infographic! It goes over what to expect if you do have a stroke.
Read the text alternative of Timeline of a Stroke.
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It might start with odd symptoms. Maybe the side of your face goes numb. Or you can't lift your arm because it feels like lead. If you're having a stroke, what happens next — and how fast — makes all the difference in how you'll recover.
The First Few Minutes
- A stroke comes on when your brain doesn't get the blood and oxygen it needs. That could be due to a clot, known as an ischemic stroke.
- It's not long before brain cells start to die. Once a stroke begins, you lose almost 2 million brain cells every minute.
- That's what leads to the first symptoms you have, which can seem like some part of your brain went quickly offline.
- In seconds, you go from totally fine to totally not. Any one of these 3 signs — face drooping, arm weakness, and trouble talking — means someone needs to call 911.
The Call to 911
When you make the call, say "I think it's a stroke." That lets the 911 dispatcher know to act quickly and get an ambulance to you right away.
When First Responders Arrive
When the ambulance shows up, they're going to act fast. They start by making sure you're breathing and you have a pulse. If not, you'll get CPR. In some cases, they'll give you oxygen.
Often, first responders use the Cincinnati Prehospital Stroke Scale (CPSS), where they ask you to:
- Smile so they can see if your face looks crooked or droops on one side
- Hold both arms out straight for 10 seconds to see if one arm drifts downward or doesn't move at all
- Say a simple phrase, like "the sky is blue," to check if you slur your words or have trouble understanding what they're saying
They'll also want to know exactly what time your symptoms started. And they might check your blood sugar level.
If everything points to a stroke, they send what's called a CODE STROKE to the hospital. All of this happens within minutes. then you're speeding off in the ambulance.
At the Hospital
Once you're through the emergency room doors, the stroke team jumps into action.
- Within 10 minutes: A doctor starts a physical exam and asks you or a loved one about your symptoms and health history.
- Within 15 minutes: You get tests to see if you're having a stroke and how severe it might be. You might also get some blood tests.
- Within 25 minutes: You get a CT scan to make an image of your brain so doctors can tell what kind of stroke you're having.
- Within 45 minutes: The doctor reviews the CT results.
From there, it's time for treatment. For an ischemic stroke, that usually means you get a clot-busting drug. It works fast to get blood flowing back to your brain. Ideally, you get it within 60 minutes after you get to the hospital.
Developing a Stroke Recovery Plan
- Doctors diagnose type and severity of impacts
- Families share symptoms they see
- Treatments prioritized
- Team assembled to deliver care.
Help your loved one recover from a stroke.
- Help with shopping and cooking
- Take shifts as caretaker as needed
- Drive loved one to appointments
- Be patient
- Be positive because recovery IS POSSIBLE
*This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
For additional information about strokes, review our resource: Warning Signs of a Stroke.