May is American Stroke Month
Each year, more than 795,000 people suffer from a stroke, and over 140,000 of those people die from stroke (Stroke Association). Many have multiple occurrences, and even more suffer irreparable damage. For that reason, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association have come together to create awareness for strokes, their signs and symptoms, and what action should be taken when a person exhibits these symptoms.
People all over the world have seen the horrible after effects of strokes, but not everybody knows what the signs and symptoms are. So what does a stroke look like? The Stroke Association stresses that everyone knows what FAST means and stands for in relationship to a stroke:
Face Drooping – Numbness or droopiness on one side of the face; have the person smile and see if the smile is uneven.
Arm Weakness – If one arm feels weak or numb or if one arm drifts downward when both arms are lifted, call 911 immediately.
Speech Difficulty – Slurred speech or speech that is difficult to understand is a clear sign of a stroke. The American Stroke Association recommends having the person say a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue,” and to call 911 if it is not repeated properly.
Time to call 911 – If any of these symptoms are shown, call 911 immediately and check to see what time the symptoms were first exhibited. This can be crucial in the treatment of a stroke. Remember that even if the symptoms go away, they were still there and need to be addressed immediately.
Treatment for a stroke needs to happen within 4 hours to avoid further brain death and more complications. Knowing what time the symptoms started showing is important because this will determine what type of action can be taken. This will also help doctors to understand just what type of damage there may be. Time is crucial when someone suffers from a stroke, so if any of the stroke symptoms are experienced, 911 must be called immediately.
The Cincinnati Pre-Hospital Stroke Scale is another system that is used to diagnose strokes in a pre-hospital setting (such as an ambulance). The scale follows the same type of guidelines as FAST, but specifies more clearly what type of reaction to the tests is normal and what is not. According to strokecenter.org, the Cincinnati Stroke Scale is as follows:
Normal: Both sides of face move equally
Abnormal: One side of face does not move at all
Normal: Both arms move equally or not at all
Abnormal: One arm drifts compared to the other
Normal: Patient uses correct words with no slurring
Abnormal: Slurred or inappropriate words or mute
The bottom line is, long-term stroke damage can be prevented if people learn the signs and symptoms and know when it’s time to call 911. Because stroke damage comes on so fast, it is important not to ignore the symptoms, even if they go away. Knowing how to recognize FAST could save lives, and May is a month all about focusing on raising awareness on this very concept.