May is Stroke Awareness Month

From where I stand, identifying stroke symptoms and providing care as quickly as possible can be life-changing, if not lifesaving. May marks National Stroke Awareness Month and for patients in need of stroke care, speed is the key to recovery.

What is a stroke?

Each year about 800,000 people in the United States experience a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the country’s fifth-leading cause of death and a major cause of disability.

There are two types of stroke and treatment, as each type is different:

  1. An ischemic stroke is when blood flow and oxygen to the brain are blocked because of a clot in an artery that goes to the brain or in the brain. A drug to break up clots can sometimes be given in most hospitals or the patient may need emergency transport to a hospital with more specialized services.
  2. A hemorrhagic stroke is bleeding in the brain and may require surgery at a medical center that offers brain surgery services.

So, what can you do if you or someone you know is experiencing stroke symptoms?

Fast action in getting someone care can be the difference between that person recovering from the stroke or experiencing life-long disabilities, or even death. To identify signs and symptoms of a stroke, which are oftentimes sudden, use the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T. 

B - Balance: Watch for a sudden loss of balance. Is the person leaning to one side or staggering when walking?  or sudden dizziness

E - Eyes: Is there a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes? Double vision that doesn't go away when you blink your eyes. No side vision or vision above midline?

F - Face: Ask the person to smile or stick out their tongue. Is the smile uneven, is the tongue deviated to one side or does one side of the face droop? A bit of drooling out of that side of the face may be present.

A - Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Is there a sudden loss of coordination, numbness, weakness of that arm?  or leg.  Is It on one side only.  strokes don't usually have symptoms on both sides of the body.

S - Speech: Sudden difficulty in speaking or understanding. Can the person repeat a simple phrase? Does the speech sound slurred or abnormal?

T - Time: Call 911; do not drive the person to the local emergency room. By contacting EMS, assessment and treatment can be started before arrival to the Emergency Department and time (brain) is saved.

If you recognize the symptoms of a stroke and get to a hospital within three hours, further damage to the brain can be prevented and initial damage may be reversed if the clot-busting drug can be administered.

Be informed and if you think you or someone else might be having a stroke, B.E. F.A.S.T.! A vigilant response could save a life. Last but not least, get your COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, as findings suggest that COVID-19 increases the risk for stroke. Advocate for yourself by calling your provider.

OPINION PIECE: This piece is authored by Brenda Tousley, DNP, ACCNS-AG, AGCNS-BC, ASC-BC, CCRN-K, CLNC, Banner Health NoCo Stroke Program Manager.

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