Maybe you ate too fast and hiccups ensure — that’s not so scary. But a sudden onset of relentless, painful hiccups can indicate a stroke on the way, according to Ohio State University’s Director of Neuroscience Diana Greene-Chandos, M.D.
Experts associate hiccuping with a specific stroke that occurs in the back of the brain (instead of the top), which is more common in women. But no matter your gender, take severe hiccups seriously, especially if they’re associated with other stroke symptoms.
2. Severe headache
When a headache — a less common sign — does signal a stroke, it’s usually a “thunderclap” headache. These come on suddenly and will likely be the most painful headache you’ve ever had.
Thunderclap headaches are also a common sign of a brain aneurysm, so seek medical attention immediately if you experience one. If your headache accompanies any of the “BE FAST” signs, which we’ll outline on page 4, it could be a stroke.
Many people recognize slurring your words as a stroke sign. But losing your place in a conversation or forgetting what the other person just said can also signal the disease.
People often mistake confusion for nothing more than a “senior moment,” which is why it often doesn’t cause alarm. However, if you experience confusion along with any other stroke symptoms, seek medical attention.
4. Difficulty swallowing
Another less common symptom is difficulty swallowing, which is typically caused by paralysis of the throat muscles. This is most common just after a stroke, but it can also happen beforehand. Throat paralysis is usually temporary, but not if you wait too long to get help.
5. Agitated behavior
Your irritation could indicate more than just a bad mood or PMS. Doctors call it an “altered mental status,” and it’s a common “nontraditional” symptom. In one study, “About 23 percent of women and 15 percent of men reported altered mental status related to stroke,” according to Healthline.
If restlessness and agitation occur with other stroke symptoms, you should take it more seriously.
Medical experts created an acronym “BE FAST” to help people remember the symptoms of a stroke. Each letter stands for a symptom. The most important part to understand: When two or more signs occur together, it’s even more likely to be a stroke.
The “B” in “BE FAST” stands for balance. If you suddenly feel off balance, it could be a sign of a stroke. Balance issues include being unable to walk in a straight line or touch your finger to your nose. Problems with balance can also occur after you’ve had a stroke.
Vision trouble is often one of the earliest signs of a stroke. If you suddenly have double vision or can’t see at all, it’s a strong indicator that something is troubling your brain, such as a lack of oxygen. With a stroke, blindness is more common in one eye than both.