A few years back, I saw a young man whose wife—who is in the medical field—called 911 after recognizing his symptoms of weakness and numbness as a possible stroke.
As a result, he got to the hospital quickly and was treated with an intravenous clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, which is the only urgent medication for stroke approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When I saw him after his discharge, he was in great health with no residual effects. He spoke of playing with his young son and how blessed he felt to have recovered completely.
Know the signs
It was handy that my patient was married to someone who knew the signs of stroke. But everyone, not just medical professionals, can recognize most strokes by following the FAST acronym. In fact, a study showed that the FAST acronym can identify up to 89% of all strokes—all we have to do is learn it.
- Face drooping (usually on one side)
- Arm weakness (the arm may drift down or feel numb)
- Speech difficulty (slurred speech or trouble getting words out or understanding others)
- Time to call 911
Knowing what FAST stands for can make all the difference in stroke recovery and survival.
If you observe or experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately and jot down the time you noticed the symptoms. Knowing when symptoms started, down to the minute, helps in making quick, difficult decisions in the ER.
Evidence shows that the sooner a stroke can be treated with tPA, the more likely you are to get back to your normal self. Remember, a stroke is like a heart attack in your brain.
Strategies for preventing stroke
In addition to educating my patients about how to look for the symptoms of stroke, I also talk to them about what they can do to lower their risk. Along with staying on top of stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, the following are a few strategies I share with them:
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