Stroke Awareness: Do you know the signs?

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., and those who do survive strokes can be severely disabled as a result. That's why it's so important to be aware of the first signs of a stroke. The sooner a stroke victim gets medical attention, the better their chances of both surviving and avoiding permanent disability.

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when an artery supplying blood to the brain is blocked or ruptures. When part of the brain can't get the blood (and therefore oxygen) it needs, brain cells begin dying.

There are two main types of strokes:

  • Ischemic: This is the most common type of stroke. In an ischemic stroke, blood cannot reach part of the brain because an artery is blocked, usually by a blood clot. 87% of strokes are ischemic. Another type of ischemic stroke, called a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or "mini-stroke," is less severe and lasts for a shorter time, but is still a medical emergency.
  • Hemorrhagic: In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. Only 13% of strokes are hemorrhagic.

Know the signs: BE FAST.

The acronym BE FAST can help you remember the warning signs of a stroke and remind you of the importance of acting quickly to get medical help.

B is for balance. Is the person's balance off? Are they dizzy?

E is for eyes. Sudden difficulties with vision in one or both eyes is another sign of stroke.

F is for face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?

A is for Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S is for Speech. Ask them to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

T is for time. If you or anyone else has any of the above symptoms, it is important to act quickly – call 911 immediately.

Stroke Prevention

The best way to avoid death or disability from a stroke is to avoid having one altogether. "Eighty percent of strokes are preventable," says Melissa Duchene, a Registered Nurse and Stroke Program Administrator with Covenant HealthCare.

The most important steps for preventing strokes are:

  • Maintain healthy blood pressure. "Blood pressure is the #1 preventable risk factor for stroke," Ms. Duchene points out. Have your blood pressure checked regularly. If it is high, follow a low-sodium diet ask your doctor if you should take a blood pressure medication.
  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking doubles your stroke risk. You can find resources to help you quit here.
  • Take necessary medications. Patients with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk for stroke and may need to take blood thinners to avoid blood clots. Patients with high blood pressure may also need to take medication.
  • Exercise regularly. Both obesity and inactivity increase your risk for stroke. Even simple exercise like a daily walk can help reduce it.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Heart health and stroke prevention go hand in hand, so follow a heart-healthy, low-sodium diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables.

Covenant HealthCare has been certified by the Health Facilities Accreditation Program as a Primary Stroke Center. That means Covenant has the required facilities and procedures in place to provide optimal care to acute stroke patients. You can learn more here about the Covenant Stroke Program. The more you know about stroke warning signs and prevention, the more prepared you'll be.

Watch Melissa Duchene discuss stroke awareness on WNEM TV's Medical Moment.

Posted Date: 4/9/2019

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