Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the US and the number one cause of disability yet only a third of Americans know the signs of a stroke, “All Americans can tell you what a heart attack feels like and can tell you all the signs and symptoms but a stroke, not so much,” says Dr. Mark Murray, a neurologist at St. Anthony Hospital.
They have tried to make it easier for all of us to recognize and know the symptoms of a stroke with an acronym, B.E.-F.A.S.T., “It’s the acronym but also what we need you to do,” adds Dr. Murray.
B – Balance: Is the person suddenly having trouble with balance or coordination?
E – Eyes: Is the person experiencing suddenly blurred, double vision or a loss of vision
F – Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? Or is it numb?
A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S – Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is their speech slurred? Or are they unable to get any words out?
T – Time: Call 911 as fast as possible
Timing is very important to stroke treatment so if you are with someone experiencing a stroke, note the time the symptoms begin, “It’s important to note the time because some of our treatments are time sensitive. There’s some medicines we can only give 4.5 hours out and there’s some other procedures we can do as well that are sometimes time sensitive,” explains Dr. Murray, “Every minute people lose almost two million brain cells, so it is really important to act fast,” he adds.
A common misconception is that strokes occur only in older adults. Although, your stroke risk increases with age, a stroke can happen to anyone at any time. About 15% of ischemic strokes, when an artery in the brain is blocked, occur in young adults and adolescents.
The National Stroke Association says you can prevent your stroke risk the same way you can avoid most health problems, healthy diet and exercise. Hypertension, high blood pressure, remains the single most important modifiable risk factor, accounting for nearly 48% of strokes. Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is an important first step in controlling your stroke risk. Smoking can also increase your stroke risk, so if you are a smoker it’s important to quit to lessen your risk.
Again, call 911 immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms of a stroke.