North Carolina has one of the highest stroke death rates in the U.S., ranking sixth highest out of the 50 states. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in North Carolina, with someone dying from it every two hours. These statistics are tragic because 80 percent of all strokes are preventable with simple lifestyle changes, such as controlling high blood pressure, losing weight and quitting smoking.
Stroke has a high recovery rate if the victim receives treatment in time. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke, along with what to do when one occurs, is crucial for the patient. The acronym FAST is a good reminder of what you should do if you think someone is having a stroke.
- F – is for face. Ask the person to smile and see if their face droops.
- A – is for arm. Have the person lift both of their arms to see if one drifts.
- S – is for speech. When the person talks you does their speech sounds slurred or strange?
- T – is for time. Time to call 9-1-1 to get the person help as soon as possible, and EMS is the best way to do that.
Although EMS does not begin treatment, they gather information and notify the emergency department. This notification allows the stroke team to be ready for the patient. The sooner treatment for a stroke begins, the greater the chances are for recovery.
Never transport a stroke victim to the hospital or wait to see if the symptoms improve. They usually do not. When a stroke victim arrives at a hospital without advanced notification, there is a delay in treatment as the stroke team is notified and reacts. Many victims are not able to utilize the available treatments because the family delayed in getting that person to the hospital. This extra time can result in permanent disability or death.
It is important to act quickly when you think that someone is having a stroke, because most of the available treatments are time sensitive. One important medication can only be used within a short window of a person having a stroke. Other treatments and surgical options are more effective the sooner they are administered.
The stroke rate for Native Americans and African-Americans is higher than that of Caucasians, with incidence of first strokes in African-Americans nearly double that of Caucasians. Women are at higher risk for stroke than men. In fact, nearly twice as many women die of stroke than of breast cancer. Fifty percent of African-American women die from stroke or from heart disease.
With so many risk factors for stroke all around us, it’s important that we recognize the symptoms and know how to react – FAST!