With a stroke, time lost is brain lost.
Stroke and TIA (transient ischemic attack) happen when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts. When blood flow to the brain stops, the tissue is deprived of oxygen and food, causing brain cells to die within minutes. Permanent damage or death can follow quickly.
According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is one of the leading causes of death and serious, long-term disability in the United States.
Stroke can cause paralysis; affect your ability to speak, read or write; affect your personality or ability to think clearly; and it can affect your sense of touch.
Prevention is ideal, but early detection and treatment is the next best thing.
Treatments such as the clot-busting drug, tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) can reduce long-term disability due to the most common type of stroke, but the patient must receive treatment quickly to have the greatest impact. That's why everyone should learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke so they can seek medical care by calling 911 immediately.
The signs of stroke and TIAs typically are the same. The TIA may last just a few minutes. Remember, not everyone will experience all of the warning signs below with every stroke. Call 911 for the most rapid medical care:
Signs of stroke and TIAs include:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
When you call 911, check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms occurred. Research shows that clot-busting drugs must be given within three hours of the start of symptoms for the best results.
On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, someone dies of a stroke every four minutes and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. Age and cardiovascular disease increase your risk of stroke.
Steps you can take to prevent stroke include being active and monitoring and maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol level. If you smoke, stop. And if you have diabetes, work with your health care professional to manage it.
Do research prior to an emergency to find out which hospitals have a plan of care for stroke patients.
The Joint Commission, the leading health care accreditation organization in the nation, has stringent criteria to designate primary stroke centers. The designation recognizes health care organizations that have a commitment to and success in implementing excellent care for stroke patients, according to national evidence-based guidelines.
Williamsport Regional Medical Center is certified as a Primary Stroke Center.
In addition to having steps in place to ensure that stroke patients get rapid emergency treatment, health care organizations with this designation also have care plans to support the recovery and rehabilitation of stroke patients to help them recover function, strength and independence as well as prevent future strokes.
Dewar is stroke champion of Susquehanna Health's Stroke Program, which is designated as a primary stroke center by the Joint Commission. She also is administrative director of quality and safety.