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Examiner
  • Can you think F.A.S.T.?

  • You’re having dinner with Aunt Jenny. Suddenly, she turns to you and says something that doesn’t quite make sense. Her face looks altered and she appears to be disoriented. Do you know what’s going on and how easily you can discern what might be a matter of life and death?

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  • You’re having dinner with Aunt Jenny. Suddenly, she turns to you and says something that doesn’t quite make sense. Her face looks altered and she appears to be disoriented. Do you know what’s going on and how easily you can discern what might be a matter of life and death?
    The symptoms I’ve just described are very much in line with someone experiencing a stroke. If that is the case, the clock is ticking as brain cells begin to die because of a lack of oxygen. This culprit is typically an obstruction in the blood flow or the rupture of an artery feeding the brain - and time is of the essence in stopping the process.
    In short, you have to think F.A.S.T. - Face, Arms, Speech, Time.
    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 the speech slurred or strange?
    Time: If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 immediately.
    The outcome after a stroke depends on the point where the stroke occurred and how much of the brain was affected. Smaller strokes often result in minor deficiencies, such as weakness in arms or legs. More profound strokes could lead to paralysis or death. Stroke patients may be left with weakness on one side of their bodies, speech issues, incontinence and other problems. Recovery after a stroke is often a lifelong process. Some patients recover fully from a stroke while others face challenges for the rest of their lives.?
    This is why the time factor is so critical. It’s important to note the time when symptoms first appear. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA-approved clot-busting medication that may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
    This clot busting drug is called tPA. It is an intravenous injection of tissue plasminogen activator, which restores blood flow by dissolving the blood clot causing your stroke, and it may help people who have had strokes recover more fully. Stroke victims are also often given aspirin immediately following an ischemic stroke to reduce the likelihood of having another stroke. Aspirin does not break down a clot, but it prevents blood clots from forming. Of the two types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic, ischemic stroke is the more common and occurs when a blood clot, or thrombus/embolus, forms that blocks blood flow to part of the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel or defective artery in the brain bursts filling the surrounding tissue with blood (cerebral hemorrhage). Both types of stroke result in a lack of blood flow to the brain and a buildup of blood that puts too much pressure on the brain.
    Page 2 of 2 - Apart from the common stroke symptoms like slurred speech, confusion and numbness, some people also report the “worst headache of their life.” This is a type of stroke and is a life threatening emergency as well.
    Statistically, women have more strokes than men, as they tend to live longer. Being over the age of 55 is one of the biggest uncontrollable risk factors for stroke. High blood pressure is major controllable risk factor, as is atrial fibrillation, which raises stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the heart, where it can form clots which can then be carried to the brain. High cholesterol, diabetes and atherosclerosis also contribute to stroke, and can be controlled through lifestyle changes.
    May is National Stroke Awareness Month. I hope you’ll take some time to learn how you can help prevent stroke in yourself and others - and above all, to think F.A.S.T.
    Your Aunt Jenny and many others may thank you for it someday.
    Hear more about stroke prevention during a free presentation at St. Mary’s Medical Center on Thursday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. The presentation includes a heart healthy cooking demonstration and a fashion show. Call 816-228-3335 to make your reservation.
    Angie Hawkins, BSN, RN, CCRN, CNRN, is on the staff at St. Mary’s Medical Center of Blue Springs.
     

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