Written by SMH Outpatient Care Coordinator Wanda Jackson
There are almost 800,000 strokes every year in the U.S.—that’s one every 45 seconds or less. Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death but the No. 1 leading cause of long-term disabilities in the U.S.
Strokes are caused by blood clots or by hemorrhage in the brain. Cerebral ischemia, or blood clot, is the most common type of stroke. And about 20 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic (or bleeding) strokes, which are caused by bursting blood vessels. Simply put, a stroke occurs when blood vessels that carry blood to the brain are blocked or burst, killing the part of the brain that doesn’t get the blood that it needs.
However, many stroke survivors say they didn’t call 9-1-1 when they were having a stroke because they did not feel the symptoms warranted an emergency call. Sometimes the symptoms are mild and go away, or we don’t want to bother anyone, or we hate to call an ambulance just because we feel a little off. But stroke—even though it’s often preventable and treatable—is certainly a medical emergency that requires urgent attention.
And that’s why it’s so important to understand the signs of stroke, so you can act immediately and call 9-1-1 as soon as you notice the symptoms.
Stroke Signs and Symptoms
Here is a simple way to remember the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Knowing them can save your life or the life of someone else. They are easy to remember: Just think “BE FAST”!
B — Balance is suddenly off
E — Eyes, one or both may lose vision suddenly
F — Face looks uneven; one side droops
A — An arm or leg is weak on one side
S — Speech is slurred or confused
T — Time to call 9-1-1!
The faster you get in the ambulance and to the hospital—as in right away—the faster doctors can start brain-saving measures and the greater your chance of recovery.
If you are having any of the BE FAST stroke symptoms (not all; strokes patients often have only one symptom), do not just go to bed and hope that you feel better in the morning. Do not just call your doctor and make an appointment to see them the following week. A stroke can happen to anyone at any time.
We have come a long, long way in treating brain attacks, and we have lots of wonderful physical, occupational and speech therapies to help stroke survivors, but it all begins with you making that decision to call 9-1-1 FAST.
To avoid a stroke, you can make some basic changes in your lifestyle, including:
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, try a smoking cessation class to help you quit. You can check the calendar on smh.com for dates of upcoming smoking cessation classes for support.
- Eat healthier by choosing more vegetables, fruits, fish, and chicken, and limit your intake of salt and bad fats.
- Increase your physical activity, and maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage health conditions like high blood pressure, Atrial Fibrillation, diabetes, and/or high cholesterol.
Stroke Support and Recovery Options
SMH is a Comprehensive Stroke Center, and we offer a range of resources for stroke survivors and others looking to prevent stroke. Whether you’re looking for support and education or nutrition and fitness help, you’re not alone, and we’ve got you covered.
If you’ve already had a stroke, your risk of having a secondary stroke is higher. Join other stroke survivors at the free, monthly Stroke Wellness Club meeting as we discuss a range of topics related to strokes and prevention.
If you’re working through some post-stroke issues, we’d love to have you join us at a Stroke Support Group meeting.
Certified Healthcare Access Manager Wanda Jackson, Sarasota Memorial’s outpatient care coordinator, helps patients and families connect the dots from inpatient care to outpatient services. She also facilitates SMH’s stroke wellness clubs, stroke support groups, stroke survivors’ cooking classes, Parkinson’s wellness clubs and support groups, and other programs.