The Silent Threat Of Strokes

What You Need To Know And How To Protect Yourself


“Stroke” can be a daunting word, but do we really understand what it means? Knowing more about strokes, how to spot them and how to aid in preventing them could make a lifesaving difference.

What exactly is a stroke?

Think of your brain as the control center for your entire body. A stroke happens when something cuts off the blood supply to part of your brain. It could be a clot blocking a blood vessel or a burst blood vessel unable to get vital blood to a portion of your brain and creating pressure between your brain and your skull.

Either way, your brain cells are starved of oxygen and can start to die within minutes. That's why acting fast is so crucial, and why Anne Arundel County has worked so hard to earn a “Stroke Smart” designation.

Know the warning signs – Act FAST

The FAST acronym is your best friend. It could save your life or the life of someone you love:

F - Face Drooping: Does one side of the face look saggy or numb? Ask the person to smile and see if it's lopsided.

A - Arm Weakness: Can the person lift both arms and keep them up? Or does one arm start to fall?

S - Speech Difficulty: Is their speech slurred, jumbled or hard to understand?

T - Time to Call 911: If you see any of these signs, don't waste a second. Call 911 immediately!

Monitor other symptoms.

Pay attention to sudden changes such as:

  • Numbness or weakness, especially on just one side

  • Confusion or trouble understanding people talking

  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes

  • Dizziness, loss of balance or trouble walking

Take control.

Strokes can be scary, but many can be prevented by following these steps:

  • Lower your blood pressure: High blood pressure puts huge stress on your blood vessels. Eat well, get moving and talk to your doctor about keeping it in a healthy range.

  • Watch your cholesterol: Think of high cholesterol as gunk building up inside your arteries. Lifestyle changes are important, and sometimes medication may be needed too.

  • Ditch the cigarettes: Smoking seriously ups your stroke risk. Quitting brings huge benefits.

  • Control diabetes: Keeping your blood sugar in check protects blood vessels throughout your body.

  • Manage your weight: Carrying extra pounds can strain your whole body, including those precious arteries.

  • Eat for health: Focus on fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein.

  • Get moving: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.

Strokes can happen at any age, so be proactive, know the signs, and act fast to protect yourself and those you love.

Bryan Pugh is the executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Maryland (BIAMD) – now in its 41st year of serving Maryland families confronting the challenges of acquired brain injuries. To learn more about strokes, acquired brain injuries and BIAMD resources/community outreach initiatives, visit


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