May Is Stroke Awareness Month, Act FAST



By Angel MedFlight Contributor

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and in cooperation with the National Stroke Association, Angel MedFlight wants to take this time to get you up to speed on the warning signs of stroke and risk factors.

According to the National Stroke Association, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of adult disability.  Yet association spokeswoman Ann Ahlers says, “Up  to two-thirds of people cannot name more than one sign or symptom of a stroke.”

Think of a stroke as a “brain attack.” It occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to the brain. This results in the death of brain cells and brain damage.  Abilities like speech, movement and memory  controlled by that area of the brain are lost as those brain cells die. The effects on a stroke patient depend on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.

A person who has a smaller stroke may experience only weakness of an arm or leg but people who have more severe strokes may be paralyzed on one side or lose their ability to speak.

Quick response is key in treating stroke victims. The National Stroke Association says it’s important to spot the warning signs. It says to act FAST and call 9-1-1 immediately at any sign of a stroke. FAST helps to remember the warning signs:

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

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

“S” is for Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?

“T” is for Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

The National Stroke Association says to note the time when any symptoms appear as there is an FDA-approved clot-buster medication, which if given in the first three hours of the first symptoms, may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Other symptoms of stroke include sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination and sudden severe headache with no known cause.

There are many risk factors for stroke and they are broken  down in two groups: controllable and uncontrollable.

The controllable risk factors include high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, diabetes, atherosclerosis, circulation problems, tobacco use and smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity and obesity. Ahlers points out stroke can happen to anyone, but is more common in people over 65. “As the baby boomer population ages, we are facing a tsunami of stroke.”

The uncontrollable risk factors are age, gender, race, family history, previous stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), fibromuscular dysplasia and Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO or Hole in the Heart).

Did you know that after the age of 55, stroke risk doubles for every decade a person is alive? And women suffer more strokes each year than men. This is mainly because women live longer than men and stroke occurs more often at older ages. Race is also a factor. African-Americans have twice the risk of stroke compared to Caucasians. Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders are also at a higher risk than Caucasians.

Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance wants you to know that up to 80 percent of all strokes can be prevented and the National Stroke Association urges you to start reducing risk now.  There’s more information available on the National Stroke Association’s website.

(Information provided by the National Stroke Association)

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