Despite its role as a major cause of death and the leading cause of disability, many Americans still do not think of stroke as a major health concern. A survey conducted a few years ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that only 38 percent of the individuals surveyed correctly identified the symptoms of stroke and knew to call 911 if they suspected a stroke in progress.
- Stroke is the nation's third leading cause of death.
- On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every 3.1 minutes.
- Stroke is also a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.
What is a stroke?
A stroke occurs when there is bleeding in the brain or normal blood flow to the brain is blocked. Within minutes, brain cells start dying. Fast diagnosis and treatment of a stroke is critical in saving as much brain function as possible.
The importance of acting FAST
Patients who arrive at the Emergency Department within three hours of their initial symptoms tend to be significantly healthier and less disabled after a stroke than those whose care was delayed.
- If an ischemic stroke takes place (caused when a clot blocks blood flow to the brain), getting to a hospital as soon as possible enables medical teams to dissolve the clot through a number of procedures.
- With hemorrhagic stroke (caused when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures), the faster the individual can receive surgery to prevent re-bleeding, the less likely the chance of serious disability or death.
This points to a need for public awareness about FAST, an acronym for things to look for in a suspected stroke victim:
F - Face: Does the face droop on one side when the person smiles?
A - Arm: After raising both arms, does one of the arms drift downwards?
S - Speech: After repeating a simple phrase, does the person's speech sound slurred or strange?
T - Time: If any or all of the above are observed call 911.
The National Stroke Association, the American Stroke Association and the CDC are all in agreement that many lives could be saved and many disabilities lessened if this simple but critical reminder is followed.
Stroke isn't just for seniors
Growing statistical evidence shows that older adults aren't the only people who should be concerned about stroke. Stroke occurrence has risen significantly in younger adults in the 20 to 55 age group, making many more people vulnerable. In fact, a little more than one-third of the people hospitalized for stroke last year were younger than age 65.
This increase is generally attributed to a concurrent rise in risk factors like diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Other researchers cite changing lifestyles - including hectic schedules and increased stress - as being associated with the increased levels of stroke in younger people. The CDC considers the trend of particular concern in the area of public health because strokes in younger people translate to longer-term lifetime disability.
There is good news
Studies show that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented through lifestyle changes and your healthcare provider's guidance with regard to reducing personal risk.
If you are having symptoms of a stroke, call 911 right away. Remember, fast, specialized care is crucial, so ask to be taken to Riverside.
Riverside offers Primary Stroke Centers
Riverside Regional Medical Center and Riverside Doctors' Hospital Williamsburg are designated by The Joint Commission as Primary Stroke Centers. This designation recognizes the presence of staff, technology and protocols needed to effectively diagnose and treat the most complex stroke cases. Capabilities at RRMC and RDHW also include a highly specialized neuro-interventional team that offers the kind of advanced treatment that can stop a stroke in progress with minimally invasive procedures carried out entirely in the circulatory system.