Joanne Givens left work early after feeling sick, a day before she was set to retire from General Motors. Before heading home, she went to the store to grab a cold beverage hoping that it would help the symptoms subside. She proceeded home, but that’s all she remembers because she woke up in a hospital.
“My neighbor found me slumped over in the car in my driveway and called the paramedics, said Givens. “Doctors said I had Pneumonia and suffered a stroke on my right side.” Doctors stabilized Givens and she recovered a month later.
One in six people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. In the United States, stroke is the No. 4 killer and the leading cause of preventable disability.
“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 Sunitha Santhakumar, M.D., director, Stroke Services, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. “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.”
In recognition of World Stroke Day on Oct. 29, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association encourages those who care for others that are at risk, to learn the warning signs of a stroke, since bystanders often need to act fast in an emergency.
A new survey commissioned by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association found that many people who care for family or friends at high risk for stroke don’t know the potentially life-saving warning signs.
- Only 41 percent of people who care for individuals with health concerns other than stroke know three or more stroke warning signs as compared to 58 percent of those who care for stroke survivors.
- Knowledge of three or more stroke warning signs was slightly better (46 percent) among people who care for individuals with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke.
- Virtually all surveyed said they would call 9-1-1 if they thought someone was having a stroke, but a recent study showed more than a third of stroke patients don’t get to the hospital by ambulance.
“Those with loved ones who have stroke risk factors should make it a priority to learn F.A.S.T. signs and teach others,” said Santhakumar. “Recognizing a stroke and calling 9-1-1 gives the patient a greater chance of getting to an appropriate hospital quickly and being assessed for life-saving treatment like a clot-busting medication or interventional procedure.”
The American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative, nationally sponsored by Covidien, a global healthcare product company, teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. to remember 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.
“I was blessed to have a neighbor that acted fast in calling 9-1-1 and making sure I got to the hospital quickly,” said Givens. She added “I’ve made it a responsibility to educate communities on identifying strokes and healthy living, especially in those areas where the risk factors are higher.”
The association offers a free mobile app to help people spot a stroke and identify award-winning hospitals nearby.
This year, 795,000 people in the United States will have a first or recurrent stroke. Other than 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 hypertension.
- Transient ischemic attack – 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.
- Smoking – Current smokers have two to four times the stroke risk of nonsmokers or those who quit more than 10 years ago. In 2011, 21.3 percent of men and 16.7 percent of women 18 or older were cigarette smokers.
For more information about the stroke warning signs and mobile app, risk factors or Together to End Stroke, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org.
Source: American Heart Association