Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke, but 80 percent of all strokes are preventable. That’s why knowing the signs and symptoms and what to do is so important. For American Stroke Month, we asked Sadie Wangler, program manager with Renown Institute for Neurosciences, to explain more.
Nearly 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, and every four minutes someone dies of stroke. Prevention, knowing the symptoms and acting FAST are key. We asked Sadie Wangler, program manager for the Renown Institute for Neurosciences, what everyone person should know about stroke.
For people who may not know, what is a stroke?
A stroke can be caused by a blood clot or blood vessels that burst due to blockage, and occurs when blood flow to the brain is cut off. This prevents the brain from getting the blood and oxygen it requires to function.
What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?
The easiest thing is to remember the word “FAST”
F – Look for face drooping:
Ask the person to smile and see if one side of their face droops.
A – Arm weakness:
Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty:
Ask the person to repeat something. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T – Time to call 911:
If you observe any of these signs, call 911.
You can also watch for sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on just one side of the body. Look for any confusion — if they’re having trouble speaking or difficulty understanding others talk — and if they have trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or sudden and unexplained severe headache.
The signs of stroke happen suddenly and a lot of people deny their symptoms, thinking they’re overreacting. But it’s critical to act quickly and get medical attention right away — when it comes to stroke and saving your brain, minutes matter.
What should you do if you think you or someone you love is having a stroke?
In addition to seeking help right away, it’s best to call 911 and get an ambulance. A lot of people make the mistake of driving themselves to the hospital or have someone else drive them, and this can be dangerous for a number of reasons. First of all, it can put you, your loved ones and others on the road in danger. Second, going to the hospital on your own can take more time than calling an ambulance, and when it comes to stroke, every minute of medical care counts. So it’s important to call 911 and get treatment immediately.
What factors increase your risk, and what can you do to prevent stroke?
A stroke can happen to anyone, but certain risk factors can increase your risk. There are some risk factors you can’t control: your age, family history, race and gender. Stroke risk is higher for women and people over the age of 55.
Fortunately, there are some risk factors you can control, such as high blood pressure, smoking, artery or heart disease, high cholesterol, as well as obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise. A lifestyle focused on healthy diet and regular exercise can greatly reduce your risk for stroke. Quitting smoking and watching your alcohol intake can help too.
The Renown Regional Medical Center Stroke Program provides evidence-based primary stroke care including evaluation, treatment and education to patients who arrive at a Renown facility with the signs and symptoms of stroke. Learn more online.