How To Recognize A Stroke (And Prevent A Stroke From Happening)

How To Recognize A Stroke (And Prevent A Stroke From Happening) | Capitol Physical Therapy Washington DC | Spine Therapist

Many of us have heard a little bit about strokes at some point in our lives.

The signs of a stroke are important to know, as are the factors that can be used to manage your risk of stroke proactively.

The potential sudden onset of symptoms and the time sensitive nature of the issue makes it vital to be able to recognize the symptoms of stroke.

Have you or a loved one previously experienced a stroke?

If so, physical therapy for stroke recovery can help.

But while a DC physical therapy clinic can help with stroke rehabilitation, the best solution is to prevent the stroke in the first place.

In this article we’re going to talk about what a stroke is, symptoms to watch out for, and how you can minimize your risk.

What Is A Stroke?

A stroke occurs either when a blood vessel in your brain bursts and bleeds, or when one becomes blocked.

This results in a reduced oxygen supply to the tissues surrounding your blood vessels.

When your brain is starved of oxygen, the cells and tissues become damaged and start to die within minutes.

This rapid response to oxygen loss is why it’s so important to recognize the signs of a stroke and get medical attention immediately if you notice symptoms in yourself or others.

Without prompt medical treatment, a stroke can lead to lifelong changes in physical and cognitive function, a variety of neurological conditions, or even death.

The sooner someone having a stroke gets medical care, the more likely they are to fully recover.

How To Recognize The Signs Of A Stroke

The brain acts as your body’s control center.

As a result, symptoms of a stroke can show up in whatever parts of the body are controlled by the area of the brain in which there is an oxygen supply issue.

The National Stroke Association suggests using the acronym “FAST” to help remember the signs of stroke.

“F” stands for Face.

A common symptom of stroke is one side of the face feeling numb or tingly, as well as drooping when the person having a stroke smiles or moves their face.

“A” stands for Arms.

This is to help you remember that if one arm drifts downward while both arms are raised in front of you, you might be experiencing a stroke.

“S” stands for Speech

During a stroke, a person may have difficulty speaking, or their speech may become slurred or otherwise sound odd.

“T” stands for Time.

As in, if you notice the above symptoms, it’s time to call emergency services RIGHT NOW.

A stroke may also present as vision problems, paralysis, or a sudden and severe headache.

RELATED: Physical Therapy Treatments For Headaches

Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing a stroke.

In fact, many of these symptoms are also commonly present in other types of conditions, such as concussions.

However, when it comes to stroke recognition, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

The severity and duration of the damage caused by a stroke can be majorly improved by seeking immediate medical attention.

How To Lower Your Risk Of Experiencing A Stroke

Now you know how to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, but how can you be proactive about preventing one?

There are a variety of lifestyle factors that can help you reduce your risk.

These strategies can be especially important if you have a family history of stroke, which can elevate your risk of having one yourself.

1. If You Smoke, Quit

It’s long been known that there is a link between smoking and stroke.

As you puff on a cigarette, your blood oxygen levels can begin to drop.

In the long term, smoking can also lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure.

In a 2023 study by Gao et al., it was discovered that heavy smokers have a higher risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) than their nonsmoking counterparts.

For all these reasons, people who smoke may be as much as six times more likely to have a stroke than those who don’t.

This study, shows a direct correlation not only between smoking and risk of stroke, but also that risk changes based on how much you smoke.

This means that reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke per day, even if you don’t quit completely, can still substantially reduce your risk of stroke.

stop smoking to prevent a stroke | Capitol Physical Therapy Washington DC | Spine Therapist

2. Maintain A Healthy Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is the biggest stroke risk factor regardless of age and gender factors.

As mentioned in the previous section, quitting smoking if you do smoke is a great way to reduce your blood pressure and look after your cardiovascular health.

RELATED: Can Physical Therapy Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease?

Other ways to help reduce your blood pressure include:

  • Limit your salt intake
  • Increase your dietary consumption of unsaturated fats
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Get regular exercise

Being proactive about keeping your blood pressure low is important not only to reduce your risk of stroke but also to help prevent heart disease.

3. Drink Alcohol In Moderation

Over consumption of alcohol can cause health issues ranging from liver problems to dehydration, but it can also increase your risk of stroke.

This meta analysis found a potential link between heavy alcohol consumption and increased risk of stroke.

There’s good news for you though if you don’t think you could give up having a few drinks a week as a treat.

That study, along with this one, based on data from the Copenhagen City Heart Study showed that drinking alcohol in moderate amounts may actually decrease your risk of stroke.

If you’re going to drink, remember to do it in moderation, and consider choosing red wine, which contains compounds that may help protect the heart and brain.

4. Maintain A Healthy Weight

Obesity is a major risk factor for both diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which independently increase your risk of stroke.

Even without those associated conditions, obesity itself can be a risk factor.

According to The World Stroke Organization, people who are overweight are 22% to 64% more likely to experience a stroke.

If you are worried about your weight, talking to a physical therapist at Capitol Physical Therapy can help you figure out what lifestyle changes might be right for you to help.

5. If You Have Diabetes, Keep It Managed

The high blood sugar spikes that can be caused by diabetes can damage blood vessels over time.

This damage can make them more likely to break, as well as making it easier for blood clots to form.

If you have diabetes, especially if you have a family history of stroke or other elevated risk factors, talk to your healthcare provider about using diet, exercise, and medication to help keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.

RELATED: Frequently Asked Questions About Type 2 Diabetes Physical Therapy

6. If You Have Atrial Fibrillation, Keep It Managed

Atrial fibrillation is a form of cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, that can cause blood clots to form in your heart.

These clots can travel through blood vessels to the brain and lead to stroke by blocking blood supply once there.

Atrial fibrillation can make you as much as five times more likely to have a stroke.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, work with your healthcare team, including your physical therapist, to find strategies to manage the risks associated with it.

Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today

Having a stroke can lead to dramatic changes in physical ability and mobility.

Recovery from a stroke looks different for different people, based on the type of stroke, the area of the brain it affected, and the extent of the damage caused before treatment.

If you’ve had a stroke and have been left with changes to your movement abilities, there is help available from Capitol Physical Therapy.

We’re happy to talk more about strokes and how to prevent them whether you come into our office for an appointment, or you book a telehealth physical therapy appointment.

to start on your path back to feeling, and moving, your best.

Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today to start on your path back to feeling, and moving, your best.

Capitol Physical Therapy
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005


9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772


Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC