Act FAST to Learn the Signs of Stroke
FRANKLIN — May is American Stroke Awareness Month and as the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, understanding what can cause stroke, signs to look for, and ways to reduce the risk of stroke are important steps we can take to keep ourselves and the ones we love safe and healthy.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of our brain is interrupted. This interruption causes a loss of oxygen delivery to our brain cells in that part of the brain, and if it goes on more than a few minutes those cells start to die. This interruption in blood flow can be caused either because a blood vessel in part of our brain ruptures and bleeds, called a hemorrhagic stroke, or because there’s a blockage in the blood supply to the brain, called an ischemic stroke. The blockage can be a blood clot or a piece of fatty deposit that breaks off from the inside of a blood vessel and gets pulled to our brain by the flow of our blood through our body, or the clot can form right in a blood vessel in our brain. According to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes.
You may also have heard of a “warning stroke,” or transient ischemic attack, this is when someone has symptoms like a stroke, but because the blockage to the blood flow to the brain is only temporary, the stroke-like symptoms disappear, usually within 24-hours. One third of people who have a TIA go on to have a full stroke at a later date, and since TIA symptoms and stroke symptoms are nearly identical, you should seek immediate emergency attention if you experience any symptoms.
The type, and amount, of damage caused by a stroke depends on the part or parts of the brain affected, and how quickly someone receives treatment, but all strokes are a medical emergency and can be life threatening. People who survive a stroke are may still be left with a range of effects including weakness and paralysis, changes in their memory, attention and perception, vision problems, changes in their personality or behavior, depression, and fatigue.
The National Stroke Association suggests the acronym FAST to help remember the symptoms of stroke. Stroke symptoms come on suddenly, without warning. The sooner we can get medical attention to treat the blockage in the brain, the better the chance of survival, so if you see any of these symptoms in yourself or anyone else act FAST.
F: Facial drooping or uneven smile on a person’s face
A: Arm numbness or weakness, most likely on one side.
S: Slurred speech
T: Time to act now! Call 911!
The Stroke Awareness Foundation reminds us that we can reduce our risk of stroke by working with our health care providers. Kristin Jordan, Director of Home Health & Hospice Services at Franklin VNA & Hospice notes, “By taking some sensible steps to reduce our risk of stroke, and knowing how to recognize the signs of stroke we can help decrease the numbers of stroke each year and increase survival for those who do have them. Working with your healthcare providers, whether it’s your primary care provider, a specialist or your VNA nurse, can really help keep you on the right track to help control the things that cause the bleeds and clots that cause strokes in the first place, like high blood pressure, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, and diabetes.”
We should also take steps on our own to keep healthy like quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, fiber and not a lot of processed foods or foods high in saturated fats and salt.
Franklin VNA & Hospice is here for our community. We help keep you home, where you want to be, and help you recover in your home if you do get sick.
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For more information, call Franklin VNA & Hospice at (603) 934-3454 or visit www.FranklinVNA.org.