Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and the number one cause of adult disability in the United States. This year, 795,000 people will have a stroke. It takes only 12 minutes for a pea-sized area of the brain to die, from the onset of stroke. This means time is critical. If you are experiencing symptoms of a stroke, don’t wait, call 911 immediately.
One in three Americans don’t know the signs of a stroke. This means many cannot recognize when they, or someone else, is having a stroke. Stroke is a medical emergency. Treatment for an ischemic stroke can only be given within a certain time window. Prompt recognition and emergent medical care are the keys to treating a stroke. Learn the warning signs and how to act FAST for stroke.
An acronym has been created to make spotting a stroke easier: it is BE FAST.
Balance - sudden loss of balance or coordination
Eyes - sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes
Face – one of side of the face droops down or the smile is crooked
Arm – unable to lift an arm or keep an arm up without drifting down
Speech –slurred speech, unable to correctly repeat a simple phrase, or unable to understand speech
Time – it’s time to call 9-1-1.
Another tool used to recognize a stroke is by answering a few simple questions.
WALK – Is their balance off?
TALK – Is the speech slurred or the face droopy?
REACH – Is one side of their body weak or numb?
SEE – Is their vision all or partly affected?
FEEL – Is their headache severe?
If someone is having a facial droop, arm weakness, or difficulties speaking or understanding, it is an 80% probability that they are having an acute stroke. Regardless of the type of stroke, it is important that a person reach a hospital as quickly as possible. Calling 911 is critical. Trained emergency medical service responders can begin to assess and immediately relay information to the hospital. A rapid, accurate diagnosis allows the appropriate treatment to be given quickly which gives the person a better chance for the best possible recovery.
Risk Factors for Stroke
Stroke risk factors and prevention go hand in hand, as identifying and controlling your risk factors are the keys to preventing a stroke.
Stroke risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure-the most significant controllable risk factor for stroke
- High Cholesterol
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Smoking-smokers have an up to 4 times higher chance of having a stroke
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- Sleep Apnea
Reducing these risks means:
- Keeping your blood pressure below 140/90
- Keeping your total cholesterol less than 200, with your bad cholesterol (LDL) at less than 130
- Making sure your fasting blood sugars are between 90-130
- NOT SMOKING
- Moderate to vigorous physical activity 3-5 times a week can reduce your risk of ischemic stroke by 35%
- Treating atrial fibrillation, which is an irregular heart rhythm that can increase your risk of stroke by up to 5 times
Some stroke risk factors cannot be controlled such as being over age 55, being African-American, Pacific/Islander or Hispanic, and having a family history of stroke. If you have one of these risk factors, it is even more important that you learn about the lifestyle and medical changes you can make to prevent a stroke.