Knowing the Signs of a Stroke Can Help You Survive

bison rancher

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of serious long-term disabilities — but the quicker you get help, the better the outcome. That's just what happened to Richard Jorgenson.

Richard, who’s 71, is a fourth-generation bison rancher. In January 2017, he was on his ranch on a snowy day. He’d walked half a mile to his home in two feet of snow, but he was not even aware of what was happening.

"All of a sudden it hit. I was hardly aware of what was going on," he said.

Richard was suffering a stroke. Richard is in good shape and had no warning signs. Quick action helped him to survive and recover.

What happens when you have a stroke?

There are two main types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Both mean not enough blood and oxygen are getting to your brain. With either type of stroke, you need clot-busting medication, called TPA, within four and a half hours. Similarly, blood clots should be removed within six hours.

Richard was lucky. Someone called 911 immediately, and paramedics quickly got him to the hospital. Less than six months later, the bison rancher is expected to make a full recovery, thanks to the quick action.

Is stroke common?

Each year there are more than 795,000 strokes in the U.S. Every 40 seconds, someone has one, and every four minutes, someone dies from a stroke. If you’re having a stroke, your best chance at recovery is to have a fast response time. The sooner you get into the hospital and get the proper treatment, the better off you’ll be. For every minute of a stroke, two million brain cells die.

What are the signs of a stroke?

It's important to know the signs of a stroke. Follow the acronym BE FAST.

  • Balance: Sudden loss of balance or coordination
  • Eyes: Trouble seeing in one or both eyes, dizziness, loss of balance
  • Face: Sudden weakness of the face
  • Arm: Sudden weakness of an arm or leg
  • Speech: Sudden difficulty speaking
  • Time: Time the symptoms started

If suddenly you have weakness on half of your face, one of your arms is weak, your speech is slurred, or you're having problems understanding or speaking, you may be having a stroke. The T is for time. Remember what time it started, and get to the hospital as soon as possible. Call 911!

Remember, speed of treatment is key to saving brain cells – and your life. Getting the right care is also equally important.

What increases the chances of a stroke?

Strong risk factors of a stroke include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and smoking. You should also know your family history and the type of stroke any family members have suffered.