Banner Health Services  

Why does every minute count for stroke care?

Sarah Badalamenti  

Sarah Badalamenti, RN, is the stroke program coordinator at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.

Question: How can I detect a stroke and why does every minute count when it comes to getting help?

Answer: Stroke may not hurt like a heart attack, but it’s just as serious. In fact, more and more medical professionals are calling it a brain attack since that’s exactly what occurs during a stroke. Simply put, a stroke occurs when a blockage keeps blood from flowing to part of the brain, depriving it of precious oxygen and sugar.

There were about 795,000 strokes reported in the United States last year and it’s the leading cause of long-term disability nationwide. It’s also the third-leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease.

Unlike a heart attack, stroke symptoms, unfortunately, are often ignored because they don’t cause pain. But when those symptoms appear, doctors have only a three-hour window to diagnose and administer a clot-busting drug that can reduce long-term effects of a stroke.

Here’s a handy guide to remember when it comes to reacting to a stroke called the FAST method:

  • F  is for Face – look for facial droop or uneven smile.
  • A is for Arm – look for arm numbness or weakness.
  • S is for Speech – slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding.
  • T is for time – call 9-1-1 and get to the hospital immediately.

Stroke symptoms are often vague and different for everyone. Generally, symptoms show up on only one side of the body. That’s because each side of our brain controls half of our body. Those symptoms could be numbness or tingling, blurred vision, double vision, severe headache or difficulty speaking. 
Since the symptoms are relative to each person, it’s the victim’s friends or loved ones who occasionally spot them first.

Like heart disease, strokes seem to be caused by many of the same lifestyle choices, such as fatty diets, high blood pressure and sedentary lifestyle. Men and women can choose to lose weight by modifying their eating habits and increasing their exercise. High blood pressure can often be controlled through diet by eating healthier and with medication prescribed by a physician.

So remember the FAST method. And if you see the warning signs of a stroke, don’t hesitate – dial 911! When it comes to a stroke, time equals brain. During a stroke, victims can lose nearly 32,000 brain cells every second – so every second counts.

Page Last Modified: 08/20/2010
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