By Crystal Perry, RN, BSN, CEN, Denton Regional Hospital, Denton LIVING WELL Magazine
Our brains need a constant supply of blood. Blood vessels known as arteries carry the oxygen and nutrients that are vital for functioning to the brain. Strokes occur when one of these arteries is either blocked or ruptures and an area of the brain is deprived of blood flow. When blood flow is disrupted, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die.
Stroke can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of race, sex or age. It is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. Approximately 795,000 strokes will occur this year and those who survive are often faced with challenges related to their mental, physical, and emotional functioning. Many lose their independence due to the disabling effects of the condition.
Although some studies indicate that 80% of strokes can be prevented, the best way to protect yourself and loved ones from stroke is to understand personal risk and how to manage it. If you have one or more of the risk factors listed below, it is even more important that you learn about the lifestyle and medical changes you can make to prevent a stroke.
General risk factors for stroke include:
- Being over age 55
- Being a male
- Being African-American, Pacific/Islander or Hispanic
- Having diabetes
- Having a family history of stroke
Recognizing and detecting stroke symptoms quickly is also essential when it comes to minimizing the damage caused by stroke. Although new treatments are available that can greatly reduce the effects of stroke, it is critical that you arrive at the hospital within 60 minutes after symptoms start in order to prevent disability.
Stroke symptoms include:
- SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg––especially on one side of the body.
- SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.
Two million brain cells die every minute during stroke, increasing risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death. Recognizing symptoms and acting quickly to get medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities. At any sign of stroke, act FAST and CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY. Use the acronym FAST to help you remember the warning signs:
F = Face
Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = Arms
Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speak
Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T = Time
If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. Be sure to note the time when symptoms first occur.
Crystal Perry, RN, BSN, CEN, is stroke coordinator, Denton Regional Medical Center. To learn more about recognizing the signs of a stroke, visit dentonregional.com.