American Stroke Association urges people to learn the F.A.S.T. warning signs of stroke

aha_3LOS ANGELES — It was the summer of 2009 and Dana Rivera was having a typical day. She started her morning with a workout then dropped off her son at summer school.

Before picking him up in the afternoon, Dana made a quick stop at the store where she suddenly felt the left side of her body collapse. A store employee called 911, the paramedics arrived and Dana was rushed to the hospital.

Dana was sent home with a migraine diagnosis, but wound up back in the hospital a short time later after her symptoms worsened. Tests revealed she had a stroke.

At 44 years old, the wife and mother of four had to overcome the challenge of regaining use of her left side which became paralyzed from the stroke. Dana has since fully recovered, thanks to the store employee’s fast action and the immediate medical attention she received.

One in six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. Globally, stroke is the No. 2 cause of death, next to heart disease. In the United States, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies from one every four minutes. Yet one in three Americans cannot name at least one sign of stroke.

In honor of World Stroke Day on Oct. 29, the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative, nationally sponsored by Medtronic, urges people to learn the acronym F.A.S.T. to remember the common stroke warning signs:

F – Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

A – Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

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 like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T – Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Additional stroke symptoms include: Sudden severe headache with no known cause; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; or sudden confusion or trouble understanding.

“The patient doesn’t always recognize their own stroke and when they do, sometimes their symptoms make calling for help difficult, if not impossible,” said Reza Jahan, MD, associate professor, division of interventional neuroradiology, department of radiology and neurosurgery, UCLA Stroke Center. “Just like we need to learn CPR to save someone else’s life, we need to learn how to spot a stroke and act fast for the best chance of a positive outcome.”

This year, 795,000 people in the United States will have a first or recurrent stroke. In addition to a prior stroke, major stroke risk factors include:

High blood pressure – It’s the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. About 77 percent of people who have a first stroke have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. An estimated 78 million Americans have high blood pressure.

Transient ischemic attack (TIA)– About 15 percent of strokes are preceded by a TIA or “mini stroke.”

Atrial fibrillation (Afib) – It increases stroke risk up to five times and affects. More than 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib.

Smoking – Current smokers have two to four times the stroke risk compared with nonsmokers or those who quit more than 10 years ago.

For more information about stroke, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org/worldstrokeday.

About the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, visit www.heart.org or www.strokeassociation.org, or call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or any of our offices around the country.

Courtesy of Youtube American Heart Association

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