By Karen Stokes
When someone suffers a stroke, time is essential. There is very limited time to restore blood flow to the brain before the injury is irreversible.
According to the American Heart Association, about 800,000 people in the United States suffer from a stroke each year.
Adrienne Mayberry, MSN, RN, Stroke Coordinator at ProHealth Care Neuroscience Center explained, “We really encourage people to know the acronym FAST. That’s Facial droop, Arm or leg weakness on one side of body, Speech difficulty like slurred speech or inability to understand or say words and then the “T” is Time to call 911.
Other symptoms that may occur are changes in vision, headache and loss of balance.
“We have had patients who have vague symptoms where there’s altered mental status or a couple of weeks with progressive weakness, they are not as clear cut at times so it can happen that they are here for generalized weakness and on an MRI or brain image we find the stroke but usually there’s some sort of symptom,” Mayberry said.
Strokes are most common at 25 and older. There have been those with childhood strokes and all the way up to the end of life.
“We recently had a younger patient who had a stroke in his early 20s and he’s not able to drive, not able to work at this time and had to go to physical rehab,” said Mayberry.
There is a higher occurrence of stroke in women, particularly among Black women who may experience the highest prevalence of strokes. However, when examining stroke care and racial disparities, it is encouraging to note that the quality of care appears to be relatively consistent across different racial groups.
There are risk factors for stroke that can be classified into two categories: modifiable and non-modifiable factors. Non-modifiable factors, such as gender, age, race, and a history of prior stroke, are not within an individual’s control. However, there are several modifiable factors that individuals can actively influence to reduce their risk of stroke. These include managing high blood pressure, controlling cholesterol levels, making healthy dietary choices, quitting smoking, engaging in regular physical activity, and effectively managing diabetes. By addressing these modifiable risk factors, individuals can have a significant impact on their overall stroke risk.
About one in four individuals who have survived a stroke are at risk of having another stroke. This is why taking medication is extremely important. When patients are discharged from the hospital, their doctor will prescribe them specific medications to help prevent future strokes. It is crucial for stroke survivors to faithfully follow their prescribed medication routine to lower the chances of experiencing another stroke.
There are three primary categories of stroke: ischemic (caused by a clot), hemorrhagic (resulting from bleeding), and Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) – a warning stroke characterized by temporary blockage that spontaneously resolves and symptoms subside. However, it is crucial to assess a TIA as it serves as an indicator or precursor to a more severe stroke.
Mayberry emphasized the importance of seeking timely treatment in the State of Wisconsin, stating, “Our current initiative focuses on prompt medical intervention, urging individuals not to wait for a few days or a week if they experience any symptoms. If you notice any symptoms, please call immediately, as the hospital will be prepared to receive you upon your arrival.”