When it comes to stroke, every second counts. Recognizing symptoms early and responding quickly is critical to reducing a person’s chance of long-term physical and mental damage—or even death. As the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S., it’s important to know what to do if someone exhibits the signs of stroke. The following tips could save a life, even your own:
Know the signs and symptoms. Don’t ignore these warning signs, even if they go away.
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Slurring of speech
- Problems with vision in one or both eyes
- Dizziness, loss of coordination or trouble with balance and walking
- A sudden, severe headache
Time is brain. If someone shows any of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately. Don’t wait! Stroke is a brain attack, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. About two million brain cells are lost for every minute strokes go untreated, so acting fast to get medical attention is critical.
Memorize the acronym BE FAST to help you remember the warning signs and symptoms of stroke.
- Balance – Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
- Eyes – Is there a sudden blurred or double vision?
- Face – Ask the person to smile. Is one or both sides of their face drooping?
- Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one side drift downward? Is there weakness or numbness on one side?
- Speech – Does the person have slurred speech? Can they repeat simple phrases?
- Time – Call 911 immediately if you notice one or more of these signs.
Document details. Note the time when the first symptoms appeared—emergency responders will want to know that in order to determine whether the patient could receive tPA (alteplase), a clot-busting medication that has been proven to improve outcomes for stroke patients if administered early enough. The chances for survival and recovery are much better when the right treatment begins within the first few hours of noticing stroke symptoms.
Editor’s note: In early May, UTMB’s Galveston Campus attained Comprehensive Stroke Center accreditation from Det Norske Veritas (DNV), validating UTMB’s commitment, expertise and readiness to care for victims of complex strokes. Look for more information in the June issue of Impact.