May is American Stroke Month, and a perfect opportunity to talk about prevention, symptoms and timely treatment of this condition. It’s a matter of knowing what to do, taking action and spreading the word.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Every four minutes, someone dies of stroke, making it the fifth leading cause of death for America. Locally, chronic disease – including stroke – has been identified as one of three priority areas in the most recent Centre County Community Health Needs Assessment, based on the scope and severity of issues affecting county residents.
It is imperative not to delay care if you think you are experiencing a stroke. Stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. It is a medical emergency because time plays a vital role in the life of the person having a stroke. If you are experiencing the signs of a stroke, please seek treatment at your local emergency department as soon as possible.
Always call for an ambulance to transport you to your nearest emergency department. Driving during this time can be dangerous, and an emergency vehicle is your fastest route to the care that you need. These vehicles are also staffed by qualified emergency medical services (EMS) professionals and the proper equipment needed en route. Minutes can make a difference. Every minute the brain is oxygen deprived, brain cells get irreversibly damaged, so the longer the time to treatment, the bigger the injury to the brain.
At Mount Nittany Medical Center, EMS alerts the stroke team, allowing them to prepare the appropriate treatments and ready themselves for the patient’s arrival to the emergency department, resulting in faster care.
The Medical Center’s stroke program has earned the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® program: Stroke Gold Plus, Target: Stroke™ Honor Roll Elite, and Target: Type 2 Diabetes(SM) Honor Roll designations. We are proud to offer advanced stroke care to our region, and encourage everyone to become familiar with the signs and symptoms of a stroke, by learning the acronym BE FAST:
B- Balance: Loss of balance, headache or dizziness
E- Eyes: Loss of partial or total vision in one or both eyes
F- Face: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
A- Arm: Is one arm weak or numb?
S- Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
T- Time: If the person shows any symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.
While many risk factors may be beyond your control (such as being over the age of 55), there are lifestyle and medical changes you can make to reduce your risk of stroke.
If you’ve had a previous stroke (including a TIA or “mini stroke”), or if you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, atrial fibrillation or carotid artery disease, a healthcare professional may be able to help you control and manage your risk for stroke.
Being overweight, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol can also increase your risk for stroke. It’s important to eat healthily, quit smoking, exercise regularly, and limit alcohol consumption to limit stroke risk.
To understand your stroke risk and how you might manage your risk, talk with your physician. To learn more about stroke care at Mount Nittany Medical Center, visit mountnittany.org.