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Remember and Act FAST

Remember and Act FAST

by Health & Wellness Team - May 12, 2014

When it comes to stroke, remembering the acronym FAST can be life-saving.

FACE droop
ARM drift downward
SPEECH slurred
TIME is important

When a stroke occurs, brain tissue is immediately affected and starts to die. This is why every second counts if you or a loved one experience these symptoms. Few conditions occur as rapidly and with as destructive consequences; therefore, the most crucial factor of stroke treatment is to seek immediate medical care. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and the number one cause of disability in the United States.

A stroke, or “brain attack,” occurs when one of your blood vessels clots or bursts, cutting off the blood and oxygen supply to your brain. Brain tissue is affected immediately and starts to die. The brain cells affected by stroke control functions essential to everyday life— such as walking, speaking and breathing.

Stroke can cause devastating long-term effects including memory loss, problems with vision or speech, behavioral changes and paralysis on one side of the body. After a stroke occurs, the goal is to reduce potentially devastating effects, prevent further damage to the brain, and decrease the medical and physical complications that can follow a stroke.

Stroke may occur due to several conditions involving the blood vessels. Each type of stroke has the same life-altering effects and should be treated immediately. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels inside the brain burst and spill blood into the brain. Ischemic stroke is the more common type of stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery, cutting off blood and oxygen flow to part of the brain.

The accurate treatment for ischemic stroke is the FDA-approved clot-busting medicine tPA. tPA, tissue plasminogen activator, is an enzyme found naturally in the body. It activates plasminogen into another enzyme that dissolves blood clots, to reestablish blood flow to the brain. tPA must be administered within a three to four-and-a-half hour window from the onset of symptoms. If given promptly, tPA can reduce the effects of stroke and reduce permanent disability.

The following are some common risk factors associated with stroke.

• High blood pressure
• Heart Disease
• Carotid Artery Disease
• Diabetes
• High cholesterol
• Smoking
• Obesity
• Physical inactivity
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Family history
• Age 55 or older
• African-American heritage

Some risk factors, such as family history, age and gender cannot be controlled. But, other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking, can be minimized and controlled through lifestyle changes. Research shows 80 percent of strokes can be prevented when risk factors are reduced and controlled.

The National Stroke Association provides the following stroke prevention guidelines:

• Know your blood pressure.
• Control diabetes.
• Exercise daily.
• Ask your doctor if you have circulation problems.
• Stick to a low sodium, low fat diet.
• Know your cholesterol number.
• Stop smoking.
• Drink alcohol in moderation.
• Find out if you have atrial fibrillation (AF).
• Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms.

Time lost is brain lost. Know the symptoms and act FAST. Call 911 immediately if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms. Remember, in order to be effective, treatment needs to be administered within a three to four-and-a-half hour window once symptoms appear. Visit for more information about stroke, warning signs and prevention.


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