Chief’s Corner: Am I having a stroke?
Last month I wrote about heart attacks and how taking quick action can prevent heart damage and even death. Strokes fall into a similar category that require immediate attention to prevent brain damage.
A stroke affects arteries in the brain and is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. If you take quick action you can reduce the likelihood of being disabled or even prevent dying from a stroke.
A stroke results from either a blockage (ischemic stroke) or a rupture (hemorrhagic stroke) of an artery that is carrying oxygen to the brain. Most strokes (87 percent) are from a blockage. The good news is if you recognize the signs of a stroke and get to a hospital within three hours of the onset you may be able to receive clot busting drugs (TPA – tissue plasminogen activator) and the clots can be broken up allowing your brain to receive vital oxygen and nutrients before there is permanent damage.
Working as a paramedic I have witnessed many people that did not take immediate action, which sadly resulted in irreversible, debilitating brain damage. Strokes often cause signs of weakness on one side of the body. To remember the signs of a stroke, use the acronym F-A-S-T
F – Face drooping. Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop or is it uneven?
A – Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms, does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty. Is their speech slurred?
T – Time to call 911.
Call 911 if you or someone you are with has any of these signs, even if they go away. Paramedics will arrive and conduct a more detailed assessment and can call ahead to the hospital to prepare vital clot busting drugs if indicated. Go to http://www.strokeassociation.org to learn more.