by Dr. Lorraine Edwards
May was Stroke Month. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States , affecting more than 750,000 people annually and costing over $53.9 billion dollars a year. A person dies of a stroke every 3 minutes and there are more than 5 million stroke survivors in America of which over 20% rely on others for care.
So – what is a stroke?
When there is a lack of adequate blood flow to an area of the brain irreversible damage occurs. This is what we call a STROKE. It there is a temporary restriction in blood flow or oxygenation to a portion of the brain with reversible neurological deficits we call it a Transient Ischemic Attack or TIA.
What are the signs of a stroke?
The classic signs are weakness or numbness on one side of the face and/or body, problems with language or speech, problems with balance or walking. That is why we teach people the F.A.S.T. method when you suspect someone may have a stroke.
F – ask them to smile and see if one side of the face is funny
A – have them hold up their arms and see if one drifts down
S – ask them to speak to see if understandable
T – time is brain – get to the emergency department or call 911
What factors increase your risk of stroke?
Risk factors are divided into those that you can alter and those you cannot. For example you are stuck with your family history, race and age. However you can control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, irregular heart rhythm, smoking, and lack of exercise.
Why do I need to go to the Emergency Department?
Currently the best treatment for stroke is delivered within the first 3 hours after onset of symptoms. This is not a very long time and generally it takes approximately one hour in the ED to do the evaluation required to determine if you are a candidate for “TPA – the clot buster drug”. If you delay too long trying to figure out what is wrong or waiting for a call back from your doctor you will miss the opportunity for the best treatment. Thirty percent more people are left with little or no disability three months after the stroke when they receive TPA.
Even if you are not a candidate or if you arrive too late do not despair – being treated with the same protocols is associated with better outcomes.
This is why Primary Stroke Centers are emerging throughout the nation. In central Nebraska North Platte, Kearney and Mary Lanning are Primary Stroke Centers. Primary Stroke Centers are certified to provide the highest quality of care using the most up to date treatment regimens.