Time is Brain – How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke

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May is national stroke awareness month and doctors want people to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke so they can know what to do if someone they are with is experiencing one.  

Every second counts if you or someone you love is having a stroke. A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Just a few hours can make the difference between recovery or learning to walk and talk all over again—or worse still—death. Rapid treatment during a stroke is one of the most important factors in determining a good outcome.  

A stroke occurs when a portion of the brain doesn’t get enough blood for a period of time. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. A new study shows that for every second someone delays emergency stroke care, it’s associated with 2.2 hours of less healthy life. 

The most common type of stroke is ischemic (over 85% of the time), which is usually caused by a blocked artery. The symptoms depend on the area of brain that isn’t getting enough blood and can impact movement, speech, vision, and/or balance.  

“We have a saying in Neurology: ‘Time is Brain,’ which means the sooner patients get treated, the fewer brain cells will be lost.  Every second a person is having a stroke, 32,000 neurons die” said Megan Donohue, MD, an Intermountain Healthcare neurologist and medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Intermountain Medical Center. “The faster we get you to the hospital the better odds a person has of a full recovery without losing brain or body functions.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic caregivers did see a decline in patients coming to the hospital for symptoms of stroke and one of the biggest fears was that people were waiting to seek treatment because they were worried about COVID-19.  

Doctors want to assure people that hospitals are safe places to seek care. If you believe you, or another person, is having a stroke, call 911 immediately. 

About 40 percent of people in the United States can’t identify at least one of the symptoms of a stroke. 

A good way to remember the signs of stroke is by using the acronym BE FAST:

            B = Balance – sudden dizziness or loss of balance and coordination 

            E = Eyes – sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes 

            F = Face – sudden weakness of the face (Does one side of the face droop?) 

            A = Arm – weakness of an arm or leg 

            S = Speech – sudden difficulty speaking 

            T = Time – time the symptoms started 

Strokes can happen at almost any age and that’s why it’s important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek emergency care immediately.  

However, risk factors for stroke include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. A person should also know their family history because genetic tendencies for stroke exist. 

If you have stroke symptoms that only last a few minutes or hours, you may have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Transient symptoms are also worrisome because they may mean that another stroke is likely to occur soon. People should still call 911 and come to the Emergency Department for rapid evaluation. 

Intermountain Medical Center is home to one of the most sophisticated stroke centers in the Utah. They treat more stroke patients than any other hospital in Utah and they are the only Joint Commission Comprehensive Stroke Center in the state, which means that the hospital can diagnose and treat the most complex type of stroke cases.  

The Intermountain team of specialists has developed protocols that shorten the amount of time it takes to diagnose and treat a stroke. This is important because a quick diagnosis and treatment can mean less long-term damage, less disability, and better overall outcomes.  

Intermountain offers a full spectrum of specialized care that ranges from neurocritical care through acute care and into rehabilitation and outpatient therapy.  

For additional information about Intermountain Healthcare, please visit their website. If you or a family member is experiencing a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1.

This article contains sponsored content.

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