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Stroke: Act F.A.S.T. What You Should Know

A stroke is when an area of the brain does not get the blood flow that it needs. This lack of blood flow can lead to cell damage and/or death.

Brain cells get nutrients as well as oxygen from the blood. These cells can only survive about 4-6 minutes without oxygen. This is why one must ACT F.A.S.T when presented with the signs of a stroke.

Who is affected?

Here are the facts: About 795,000 people in the United States have strokes every year. More than 140,000 of these people will die. Overall, women have a higher risk of stroke than men because generally, women live longer than men. Strokes tend to be more common as we age. At younger ages, men have more strokes than women. African Americans seem to have a higher risk of stroke than Caucasians do. Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders have a greater risk than Caucasians.

What factors increase the risk of stroke?

Uncontrollable Factors:

1. Age- After age 55 the risk of stroke doubles every decade 
2. Gender- Women are at increased risk of stroke. Did you know? More women die of stroke than breast cancer each year.
3. Race- African Americans has the highest risk of stroke. 
4. Previous history of TIA or stroke 
5. History of narrow blood vessels (fibromuscular dysplasia) 
6. History of a small hole in the heart (patent foramen ovale or PFO).

Controllable Factors:

1. High blood pressure 
2. Diabetes
3. High cholesterol 
4. Tobacco use 
5. Heavy alcohol use
6. Obesity
7. Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
8. Irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)

What should I do if I think myself or my loved one might be having a stroke? The answer is to ACT F.A.S.T!!!!

F – Facial drooping. Ask the person to smile. Is their smile uneven?
A – Arm weakness. Have them raise their arms. Are they able to raise both equally?
S – Speech. Is their speech slurred? Are they having difficulty understanding? 
T – Time to call 911. If they show any or all of the warning signs then call 911. Note the time of the onset of the symptoms. This is important! 

Since 1989 the month of May has been designated as Stroke Awareness Month. During this month great lengths are taken to educate the public about the warning signs of stroke. Please take the time to become familiar with these signs. The life you save just might be your own! 

LaTai Grant Brown, MD is a board-certified general neurologist. Her sub-specialty interests include epilepsy, sleep, and headache. She has two children Khiari, 14 and Kameryn, 8.