May is National Stroke Awareness month and although stroke continues to be the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States, as few as 1 in 5 people can identify any of the symptoms of a stroke. New treatments can not only improve stroke survival rates but can also prevent or minimize loss of function if administered quickly.
In order to give loved-ones their best chance of surviving a stroke and minimizing any long-term brain damage, getting medical attention quickly, within three hours, is critical. Signs of stroke can include the following:
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Source: The American Stroke Association
If you are uncertain if you are witnessing signs of a stroke, don’t hesitate, call 911 immediately. The emergency room stroke team will be able to determine the type of stroke with blood flow tests or brain imaging and treat appropriately. Newer clot busting drugs can be an effective treatment for ischemic strokes if administered within 3 to 4.5 hours of the initial symptoms.
Stent retriever therapy, which captures the blood clot and removes it through a blood vessel in the groin, has also been successful when blood thinning medication does not successfully dissolve the clot. This treatment is currently offered at only about 100 stroke centers across the U.S. The faster patients receive treatment for ischemic stroke, the better the chances are for a good outcome. According to a study published in the journal Radiology, in April 2016, removing blood clots within 2.5 hours of initial stroke symptoms can minimize or prevent disability in 91 per cent of patients.
High blood pressure increases risk of stroke but many adults, nearly 1 in 6, don’t know they have high blood pressure. By keeping blood pressure under control with medication or lifestyle changes, the risk for stroke can be greatly reduced.
To help remember the signs of stroke think of the word FAST:
F – Face Drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile; it the smile uneven or lopsided?
A – Arm Weakness. Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech Difficulty. Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand?
Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Can they correctly repeat the words?
T – Time to call 911. If someone shows any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately and let them know you suspect stroke. Note the time symptoms started.
To learn more about stroke and stroke prevention, visit the American Heart Association website here.