Luke Perry Died From a Huge Stroke - Here's How to Spot the Symptoms

Luke Perry's untimely death at 52 is a stark reminder that strokes can happen at any age. But more importantly, when we know how to recognize the signs, we can prevent many of the devastating effects.

Mar 5, 2019
Luke Perry at the Hallmark Channel '2013 Winter TCA' Press Gala at The Huntington Library on January 4, 2013 in San Marino, California

(Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com)

Beloved actor Luke Perry, best known for his role as Dylan McKay on "Beverly Hills, 90210" and more recently Fred Andrews on "Riverdale," sadly passed away on Monday after suffering a "massive stroke" last week, a representative confirmed to CBS News. He was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles last Wednesday but died five days later surrounded by his family and friends.

His tragic death serves as a painful reminder that stroke can affect anyone at any age, and can have devastating effects.

Each year, over 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 140,000 of those people will die. Strokes are responsible for about 1 out of 20 deaths in the United States, making it the fifth leading cause of death among Americans.

What is a stroke?

Essentially, a stroke is a “brain attack,” as the National Stroke Association puts it. When blood supply is cut off to an area of the brain cells that can't get oxygen begin to die. When those cells die, they take brain functions with them and depending on where the damage occurs, patients can lose memories, speech, and motor functions.

While some symptoms can be treated, more severe brain damage can lead to permanent problems such as paralysis and even death. You may have seen stroke victims with a drooping face, a common side effect of stroke.

What are signs of a stroke?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, early symptoms of stroke may include:

Trouble with speaking and understanding.
Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg
Trouble with seeing in one or both eyes
Headache
Trouble with walking

To spot the warning signs of a stroke, the American Heart Association recommends using the letters "F.A.S.T.," which stand for:

Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile to see if his/her smile is uneven or lopsided.
Arm weakness: Is the arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms to see if one arm drifts downward.
Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence to check.
Time to call an ambulance: If someone shows any of these symptoms — even if the symptoms go away after a while — call an ambulance to help get the person to the hospital immediately and get checked. Also note the time when the first symptoms appear, as emergency responders will want to know.

What are the risk factors?

It's also important to know the risk factors for stroke. There are some things that you can't control such as age, race, sex and family history. Men, people age 55 or older, and African-Americans are at a higher risk of stroke. People with a family history of stroke also have an elevated risk.

There are also factors that you can change. These include being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, smoking cigarettes, heavy alcohol or drug use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease - in short, living an unhealthy lifestyle.

How to prevent a stroke in the first place?

Knowing your risk factors and working with your doctor on a treatment plan to develop a healthier lifestyle are the best ways to prevent a stroke.

"If you're smoking stop immediately and if you're not smoking, don't think about starting," CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook told CBSN. "You need to know your blood pressure and you need to know your lipids — your good cholesterol, which is the HDL, and your bad cholesterol, which is the LDL. Those can help determine what your risk is."

Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation can also help reduce the risk of stroke.

Equipped with this knowledge, you will hopefully be able to help anyone showing signs of a stroke and prevent another person from leaving us far too early.

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DAVID RUHM, EDITOR IN CHIEF
David has a passion for languages and words, and loves to see people happy. He writes about inspiring ideas, amazing technologies and all the wonders of the world.

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