To Your Health: App helps at first sign of stroke
By the American Heart Association April 23, 2013 3:04PM
In 2011, the Chicago area started to implement a stroke EMS transport protocol, requiring acute patients to be taken to the closest primary stroke center hospital to receive specific treatment within the critical three-hour window from the onset of symptoms. | Supplied photo
Updated: May 25, 2013 6:17AM
May is American Stroke Month and the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association are urging people to learn the risk factors for stroke and the warning signs.
Stroke is the No. 4 killer of Americans, and it is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.
Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds, and an estimated 7 million people over the age of 20 are stroke survivors.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops.
When that happens, brain cells begin to die, causing brain damage. Most strokes can be treated and disability reduced if symptoms are recognized FAST.
F = Face — Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A = Arm — Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech — Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does the speech sound slurred or strange?
T = Time — If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911.
The American Stroke Association has a FAST app that can be downloaded to a smart phone. The app helps bystanders spot a stroke and find hospitals in the area. It reminds people to call 911 immediately if they recognize any signs of stroke.
The free app is available at www.strokeassociation.org.
The sooner a stroke victim gets to the hospital, the sooner he will get treatment, which can make a significant difference in recovery.
While some may think of stroke as something that just “happens” to them, there are many risk factors that can be modified and controlled to help lower the chances of having a stroke.
Risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and high cholesterol.
People who make healthy lifestyle choices lower their risk of having a first stroke by as much as 80 percent compared with those who don’t.
The American Stroke Association suggests eating a low-fat diet high in fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages in moderation, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight and not smoking.
African-Americans have almost twice the rate of first-time strokes and a much higher risk of death as a result of stroke than Caucasians. One cause of these statistics is the prevalence of high blood pressure in the African-American community, the highest in the world.
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure increases risk of heart disease and stroke, and it can cause permanent damage to the heart before any symptoms are noticed. For this reason, high blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer.”
Primary stroke centers
Stroke centers improve outcomes for stroke patients, and many regions have now adopted pre-hospital strategies to transport suspected stroke victims directly to primary stroke centers.
In 2011, Chicago became the first EMS region in Illinois to implement a stroke transport protocol. This protocol requires acute stroke patients in the city to be taken to the closest primary stroke center hospital instead of the closest emergency room so they can immediately receive stroke-specific treatment within the critical three-hour window from the onset of symptoms.
More information about stroke risk factors, information for caregivers and other resources are at www.strokeassociation.org.