You’re out with a friend when she complains of a bad headache. Her speech is slurred or incoherent, a side of her face is drooping and she doesn’t seem to be able to lift one of her arms. Should you call 9-1-1? YES! Your friend may be having a stroke.
According to the American Stroke Association, every single minute a stroke patient goes untreated, 1.9 million brain cells are permanently lost. Stroke can happen at any age and is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. Recognizing the signs of stroke and calling 911 are the most important links in the “Stroke Chain of Survival.”
There are common symptoms of stroke that you can remember by thinking “BE FAST.”*
- BALANCE: Sudden loss of balance or coordination?
- EYES: Sudden change in vision?
- FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred or confused?
- TIME: If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 9-1-1. Never try to drive yourself or someone else to the hospital in the case of stroke.
Stroke is a “brain attack” that can happen to anyone at any time. When blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off because a blood vessel is blocked by a clot or ruptures and bleeds, brain cells beyond that point begin to die. Depending on which side and part of the brain is being deprived of blood, people can lose the ability to speak, move an arm or leg, walk or stand, see, swallow, feel sensations, concentrate, or problem solve. This is why people who do survive a stroke are often left with serious permanent disabilities.
Some risk factors cannot be controlled — such as your age, gender, race, prior strokes, or family history. The good news is that most strokes can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle:
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure – high blood pressure is the #1 cause of strokes!
- Control cholesterol
- Keep blood sugar down
- Be active and eat healthy
- If you are overweight, lose weight
- Don’t smoke.
- Talk to your doctor about aspirin or other medications if you are at risk or have had a previous stroke. Do not start taking aspirin without consulting your doctor first.
There are FDA-approved treatments for stroke if 9-1-1 is called immediately and the patient is taken to a hospital that has been certified as a Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. The Medical Center at Bowling Green is a certified Primary Stroke Center and The Medical Center at Franklin is a certified Acute Stroke Ready Hospital and can provide advanced stroke care.
Time = brain! For people who arrive at the hospital within four-and-a-half hours of when symptoms first start or when they were last known to behave normally, a “clot-buster” drug called TPA (Activase®) may be given to restore blood flow to the brain. The quicker TPA is given, the better chance permanent disability can be prevented. People who receive TPA often return quickly to normal and have little or no effects of the stroke. However, if the stroke is caused by a ruptured blood vessel or if there was a recent major surgery or a history of bleeding issues, TPA cannot be given.
Advanced treatment may also be available up to 24 hours from when symptoms started. If a blood clot is found in any of the major arteries inside the brain that may be causing stroke symptoms, the blood clot may be removed by thrombectomy—threading a catheter through an artery in the groin into the brain and mechanically extracting the clot. In the case of a ruptured blood vessel in or on the brain, a neurosurgery evaluation is quickly obtained and a rapid course of treatment is planned to control or stop the bleeding.
At The Medical Center, Emergency Department Physicians and Neurologists rapidly evaluate a stroke victim to determine the appropriate treatment. They ensure everything is done quickly to restore blood flow to the brain and minimize disability whenever possible.
Remember, “BE FAST,” and call 9-1-1 if you suspect someone is having a stroke.
To learn more, visit MedCenterHealth.org.
*BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association.