May is National Stroke Awareness Month as started on May 11, 1989 by President George Bush when he signed the Presidential Proclamation 5975. The mission of National Stroke Awareness Month is to educate the public on strokes through campaigns such as the FACES of Stroke.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting the flow of blood to an area of the brain. Depending on where the blood flow is interrupted, brain cells are damaged and start to die causing the loss of abilities controlled by that area of the brain. Abilities include speech, movement and memory, and the damage varies depending on the severity of the stroke.
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability. What many people don’t realize is that up to 80% of strokes are preventable. There are several different types of strokes which you can read more about on the National Stroke Association website.
A key thing people need to be knowledgeable on is a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). This is an event where people experience stroke symptoms that last 24 hours or less. While most people are not left with permanent brain damage from a TIA, it’s important to see a doctor immediately as more than 40% of TIA victims will go on to have a stroke as early as 2 days after their TIA.
The symptoms of a TIA and stroke are basically the same. Someone having a TIA or stroke may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness loss of balance or coordination.
What do you do if you suspect someone is having a stroke? The National Stroke Association outline four steps to follow to determine whether they could be having a stroke or not with Act FAST. What is Act FAST?
- Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
- Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Stroke symptoms include:
- SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
- SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
- SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.
In 2010, Saline Memorial Hospital (SMH) joined the Arkansas SAVES (Stroke Assistance Through Virtual Emergency Support) program, which links rural hospitals to stroke specialists at UAMS and Sparks Health System in Fort Smith via live, two-way video 24-hours a day.
This partnership ensures immediate neurologic care for all patients coming in through the SMH Emergency Department. Each patient showing signs and symptoms of stroke is assessed to determine if they are a candidate for tPA. tPA is a drug called tissue plasminogen activator which works by dissolving blood clots and restoring blood flow. tPA can greatly increase a patient’s chances of recovery.