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Monday, November 30, 2009

JENNIFER HARDGROVE | Use 'F.A.S.T' to Recognize the Signs of a Stroke

Posted November 29, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.

What happens if you get a stroke?

A stroke happens when a blood clot blocks an artery that carries blood from the heart through the body. Brain cells die when there is interrupted blood flow to the brain. Stroke is also termed “brain attack.” When brain cells are impacted during a stroke, speech, movement and memory can be affected depending on where in the brain the stroke occurs and how much brain damage ensues.

According to the National Stroke Stroke Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease is the first and cancer is the second cause of mortality. However, stroke is the leading cause of disability and more than two thirds of stroke survivors suffer some type of disability.

Small strokes may only cause minor problems such as weakness of an arm or leg while larger strokes can cause paralysis or inability to speak.

About 87 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes; occurring when arteries are blocked by the gradual build-up of plaque and fatty deposits or a blood clot. Hemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel in the brain breaks and blood leaks into the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes account for the remaining 13 percent, and more than 30 percent of all stroke deaths. Since 2 million brain cells die every minute during stroke, recognizing symptoms and getting medical attention immediately can be life-saving.

Symptoms of stroke include sudden onset of weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side, sudden confusion, trouble speaking, understanding, seeing, difficulty walking, severe headache without a known cause, dizziness and loss of balance or coordination.

F.A.S.T. is a method for recognizing and responding to stroke symptoms:

Face: Ask the person to smile and look for face droop on either side.

Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms and look to see if an arm drifts downward

Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and listen for slurred or strange speech

Time: If any of these symptoms are observed, call 9-1-1 or bring the person to the nearest hospital.

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