“Every minute you save in getting ready to be treated for stroke the better, because the treatment is only effective up to 3 1/2 to 4 hours after the stroke symptoms start.”
Every 40 seconds, someone in the US has a stroke. Dr. Jeff Wagner, neurologist and Stroke Director at Swedish Medical Center in Denver says that amounts to 800,000 strokes per year in the US. Women are more likely to have a stroke than men and it impacts people more as they age, however, Dr. Wagner cautions that anyone can be at risk for a stroke. “Many people think of it as a disease of the elderly but it is important to know that there are many young people affected by stroke, more so with time, the causes tend to be slightly different.”
The number 1 risk factor overall for stroke is high blood pressure “high blood pressure is a big problem in the United States as well as every where else but it’s one of those risk factors that doesn’t really tell you that it’s there. A lot of people are walking around with high blood pressure but you don’t really know unless you measure it.”
May is National Stroke Awareness Month and health experts say that people can become more aware of the signs of stroke as early intervention is key to recovery. The acronym FAST works as a reminder of the symptoms to watch out for:
- F: Face: If the face is asymmetric: Ask someone to smile and if one side of the face doesn’t work, that may be a sign.
- A: Arms: Have somebody hold up both their arms and if one doesn’t work, that’s a sign of a stroke.
- S: Speech: If there is slurred speech or difficulty in getting the right word out, that is a common sign of stroke.
- T: Time to call 911: Because people don’t often look like they’re in distress when they’re having a stroke, people tend not to treat the situation as urgently is it should be.
Dr. Wagner says that it is imperative to call 911 “when you do call 911 – the people who arrive are experts in handling stroke and also paramedics and EMTs can call the hospital and give a heads up and the stroke team can gather itself even before the patient arrives and things happen much more quickly.” Dr. Wagner says that stroke is a time sensitive disease “so every minute you save in getting ready to be treated for stroke the better, because the treatment is only effective up to 3 1/2 to 4 hours after the stroke symptoms start.”
There are more than 6 million stroke survivors living in the US today, a number that is projected to grow to 10 million by 2030.