Weekly Wellness: FAST (We\'re not talking about speed)

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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.

(Source: http://www.strokeassociation.org)