Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

May 30, 2013

Learn how to spot a stroke FAST!

Local, national experts share tips


Mineral Wells Index

— By CHRIS AGEE



As American Stroke Month comes to a close, experts are sharing signs and symptoms to look for in spotting the potentially deadly disorder.

Palo Pinto General Hospital staff treated 107 stroke victims in 2012, according to Emergency Room Director James Fesser. This year began at a similar pace with 24 patients admitted between January and March.

The American Heart Association suggests remembering the acronym FAST (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911) as a checklist of stroke indicators.

First, the organization recommends, ask the potential victim to smile and notice if it is uneven. Next, ask the person to raise both arms and determine if one arm drifts downward. In judging speech difficulty,

AHA suggests asking a person to repeat a simple sentence.

Finally, if the individual shows any of these symptoms – even if they seem temporary – contact emergency personnel and transport him or her to the hospital immediately.

"One piece of information that is extremely important when you bring someone in with a stroke," Fesser added, "we want to know their last known 'normal.' Pinpoint the exact time the symptoms occurred because that oftentimes dictates the type of treatment options available."

He said the two distinct groups of stroke require very different medical responses.

"Hemorrhagic strokes have blood vessels that burst and bleed into the brain," he said of the most serious category. "Treatment for those strokes can run the gamut. We might just watch it and see if it can resolve; if it is larger, they have to do much more invasive procedures."

The ischemic stroke, he noted, is "where you have a blood clot that has gotten lodged in one of the vessels that leads to the brain."

Some ischemic strokes are treatable within several hours of initial symptoms.

"If we can pinpoint their last known normal or last known well time then, if they arrive within four and a half hours of the onset of those symptoms, we have some treatment options available," Fesser explained.

He said certain drugs can be administered to dissolve blood clots.

To determine which type of stroke a patient has suffered, Fesser said medical providers perform a CAT scan.

The key to dealing with a stroke is "rapid detection and rapid CAT scan," he explained.

Individuals can take many steps, such as a healthy and active lifestyle, to reduce the risk of a stroke.

The AHA recommends a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, beans, lean meats and fish.

These foods reduce the risk for stroke by lowering cholesterol and can help prevent the formation of clots.

Developing good eating habits is important, the organization stresses, and offers several tips for getting on track.

First, shopping a grocery store's outer aisles provides access to fresh foods and other staples while avoiding processed – and more expensive – alternatives.

Chopping fruits and vegetables in bulk allows households to portion the healthy foods for cooking or snacks later.

Finally, for those too busy to cook a balanced meal every night, preparing several over the weekend and freezing them will save time during the week.

For more information about stroke prevention and treatment, visit strokeassociation.org.