Stroke symptoms: Learn the signs and respond FAST
F – FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A – ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a single phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T – TIME – Call 911 immediately if you observe any of these or similar signs.
National Stroke Awareness Month is each May, but a stroke can strike at any time – and calling for emergency medical help right away can make a life-changing difference in how well the person might recover.
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, with one stroke-related death occurring about every four minutes. Stroke is also a leading cause of severe disability. Thankfully, it is preventable and largely treatable. But treatment effectiveness often depends on how fast the stroke victim receives medical attention.
“Time is brain,” points out Laura Buhler, RN, a Northern Virginia stroke support group facilitator.
More brain cells die with every minute you delay treatment, which increases a person’s risk for permanent brain damage, disability or even death.
When an ischemic stroke — the most common type of stroke — occurs, blood clots may block arteries that supply blood to the brain. The gold standard for treating blood clots is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which dissolves the blockage and improves blood flow to the brain.
In other cases, the procedure of choice is a mechanical thrombectomy, which involves endovascular removal of the blockage.
Why is it so important to call 911 if someone is having a stroke?
“It’s important to seek medical care with the very first signs of stroke symptoms,” Buhler says. “We can administer tPA, but only within the first three hours of stroke onset — or up to four and a half hours in certain patients. A mechanical thrombectomy may be beneficial within six hours of stroke onset or, for some patients under certain conditions, up to 24 hours of onset.”
Reduce your risk of stroke
You have the power to reduce your risk of stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone to begin by making healthy lifestyle choices. This means staying physically active; eating more fruits, vegetables and foods low in sodium and salt; maintaining a healthy weight; and avoiding cigarettes. Properly managing certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can also help lower risk.