Weekly Wellness: FAST (We're not talking about speed)
COLUMBIA - If I were to ask you what you thought the number 5 cause of death in the United States was, would you know? What if I were to tell you that every 40 seconds someone suffers from one? Now do you know what it is? What if I told you it was the leading cause of disabilities in the U.S.? What if I told you that one in six people will have one in their lifetime?
The answer is: a stroke.
A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Although many people think of stroke as a condition that affects only older adults, strokes can and do occur in people of all ages. In fact, nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than age 65.
Each year, almost 800,000 strokes occur in the United States. Strokes often lead to serious, life-changing complications that include:
- Paralysis or weakness on one side of the body.
- Problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory.
- Problems understanding or forming speech.
- Difficulty controlling or expressing emotions.
- Numbness or strange sensations.
- Pain in the hands and feet.
To help protect yourself and your loved ones, these steps can help to prevent stroke:
- Aspirin therapy: Ask your doctor if taking aspirin is right for you.
- Blood pressure control: Keeping your blood pressure under control reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke. More than half of the world’s stroke deaths are caused by elevated blood pressure levels.
- Cholesterol management: Get your cholesterol checked regularly and manage it with diet and physical activity or with medication, if needed.
- Smoking cessation: Get help at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet that’s low in sodium.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Prevent or control diabetes.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
When responding to a stroke, every minute counts. The sooner a patient receives medical treatment, the lower the risk for death or disability. It's time to learn (and share with others) what FAST stands for:
F: Face Drooping (ask the person to smile)
A: Arm weakness (ask the person to raise both arms)
S: Speech difficulty (ask the person to repeat a simple sentence)
T: Time (note the time that symptoms started)
Call 9-1-1 and get the help needed.