F.A.S.T Reaction for Stroke Victims
Four and a half hours. That's the window of time stroke victims have, to get the most effective treatment. Here's how to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and react FAST.
Let's start with what a stroke is. There are two types: ischemic and hemorrhagic. The majority of strokes, about 80 percent are ischemic strokes. That's when an artery that carries blood from the heart to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. The longer blood flow is blocked, the more the organ dies.
Hemorrhagic strokes are when a blood vessel breaks and blood flow TO the brain or IN the brain is interrupted. If the blood vessel in the brain ruptures, the bleeding causes swelling, hematoma and over time impairs brain function.
You might also hear of something called a TIA or transient ischemic attack. That's a sort of "mini-stroke" that's similar to an actual stroke, but often the symptoms go away in 24 to 48 hours.
Experts use the phrase, "Time is brain." What they mean is every minute the brain is deprived of blood, increases the risk of permanent damage.
For people experiencing the most common form of stroke, the ischemic stroke, there is an extremely effective therapy available, but only if it's given in time. It's called tissue plasminogen activator or (tPA). What it does is bust through the clot, and blood flow is restored to the starved organ. But that's where the time becomes critical. tPA must be given within 3 to 4.5 hours of a stroke starting for it to be effective.
Sadly that means in 2015, only about 1 out of 50 stroke victims get tPA treatment, because the other 49 don't get to help in time. That's why I'm sharing the F.A.S.T. method of stroke identification, so you can recognize the symptoms and get your loved ones to help quicker.
F.A.S.T. stands for the three symptoms and a reminder that time is critical.
F = Face Drooping: Ask the person to try and smile. Is the smile uneven? Does one side droop or fall? Does the person have numbness in the face?
A = Arm Weakness: Ask the person to try and raise both arms and hold them up. Can they raise both arms fully over their head? Does one arm tend to drift down? Is one arm weaker than the other or feel numb?
S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. The exact phrase doesn't matter, you're trying to see if the person can speak at all. If they can, are they slurring their words or mumbling?
T = Time: If you've noticed any of these symptoms in someone, even if they seem to go away, you need to call emergency services immediately. If you can, write down the time you first observed the symptoms. Then do exactly as emergency personnel instruct.
Using the F.A.S.T. method to quickly identify a victim and start treatment in time can be a huge lifesaver. However, there are two important steps you can take to reduce your chances of ever having a stroke.
First, if you're overweight, you need to talk with your doctor about eating a healthy diet and exercise. Being overweight increases your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea. All those conditions increase your risk of stroke.
Second, if you're over the age of 40 or are someone that doctors have identified as "at risk," you should be checked for a condition known as atrial fibrillation or Afib. That's an irregular heart rhythm. You might experience a fluttering or pounding sensation in your chest. There are several medications to treat the problem that needs to be taken exactly as prescribed.
Other steps you can take include stopping smoking, keeping alcohol consumption to no more than two standard drinks daily, limiting sodium to less than 2,000 mg a day and taking medications as prescribed to control blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
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