Identify Stroke, and act FAST

Imagine how your life would be affected if developed weakness of one side of your body. Devastated, would be your reply. Are you thinking “I am perfectly healthy, this can’t happen to me”?. You are going the wrong way. October 29, 2015 is World Stroke Day.  World Stroke Organisation celebrates this day to raise awareness about Stroke, as it is a leading cause of mortality and disability around the globe.

Stroke roughly affects 150 individuals per lakh of population based on the recent population based studies. There is a wide variation in cases among rural and urban areas of India based on differences of lifestyle.  Specialised centers for Stroke diagnosis and management are restricted to the urban areas of India, due to lack of healthcare penetration.

Considering the serious nature, high rates of stroke, and rising medical problems, it has become imperative that we raise awareness regarding prevention, as well as treatment of the condition, thus ensuring better care and support for survivors.

What exactly is Stroke?

Stroke, or in common terms ‘Brain Attack’, is a medical emergency. Strokes occurs when blood flow to your brain stops.

Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Broadly speaking, stroke can be of two types. The more common kind, called ischaemic stroke, is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel supplying the brain, which causes brain cells to die because of lack of oxygen and nutrients. About 80% of the strokes are ischaemic, and 20 % strokes are hemorrhagic.

The other kind, called hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a blood vessel that ruptures and bleeds into the brain.

In stroke the complaints or symptoms last more than 24 hours.

What are “Mini Strokes’?

“Mini-strokes” or in medical terms, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), occur when the blood supply to the brain is transiently interrupted. This results in symptoms that last less than 24 hours and recovery if complete.

What are the symptoms of Stroke?

Symptoms of stroke are

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)

Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Sudden loss of consciousness

What is FAST?

It stands for:

Facial drooping – Is your face looking twisted, or weird?

Arms weakness – Raise both arms, is one side weak or feeling heavy?

Speech difficulty – Is the person able to speak fluently as usual? Are words jumbled or slurred?

Timely medical aid – Act quickly and seek emergency medical attention immediately.

FAST is basically a way to identify early features of stroke onset, so that immediate medical attention may be sought.

Why can’t some victims identify stroke symptoms?

Because stroke injures the brain, and impairs the normal function of ti. Therefore, one is not able to perceive one’s own problems correctly. To a bystander, the stroke patient may seem unaware or confused. A stroke victim’s best chance is if someone around her recognises the stroke and acts quickly.

What should a bystander do?

Bystanders should know the signs and act in time. If you believe someone is having a stroke — if they lose the ability to speak, or move an arm or leg on one side, or experience facial paralysis on one side — call an ambulance immediately. Stroke is a medical emergency.

Immediate treatment may save someone’s life and enhance his or her chances for successful rehabilitation and recovery.

Why one needs to act fast?

Ischaemic strokes, which are roughly 80% of all strokes can be treated with a drug called t-PA which dissolves artery-obstructing clots. The window of opportunity to use t-PA to treat stroke patients is three hours, but to be evaluated and receive treatment, patients need to get to the hospital within 60 minutes. Patients who receive t-PA within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms were at least 30 percent more likely than patients who do not get tPA, to recover from their stroke with little or no disability after three months.

As brain can not recover once permanently damaged from lack of blood supply, and neurological deficits that happen, remain permanent.

What are the risk factors for stroke?

There are things you can do to prevent stroke. Many risk factors are related to lifestyle diseases.

High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke four to six times.

Heart disease, especially a condition known as atrial fibrillation or AF, can double your risk of stroke.

If you smoke, have diabetes, sickle cell disease, high cholesterol, or a family history of stroke, then your chance of getting a stroke is high.

Obesity is another major risk factor.

Indians have a higher risk of getting stroke as the patient population with diabetes and hypertension is very high.

What can you do to reduce your risk of stroke?

To reduce your risk of stroke

Monitor your blood pressure

Check your cholesterol level

Quit smoking

Exercise regularly

Leading a healthy, active lifestyle is your key to preventing strokes.

Disclaimer– This article is meant for only general public awareness and education. The text can not substitute expert medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you experience these symptoms.

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