Think F.A.S.T. – educate yourself about the symptoms of a stroke
May is Stroke Awareness Month so it’s a good time to learn some interesting facts about strokes and the importance of recognizing the signs of a stroke. It is often thought strokes only happen to older people and that isn’t true. A stroke can happen at any age. In fact, stroke is on the rise in adults age 25-55. For people under the age of 45 almost ¾ experiencing the signs of a stroke would wait and seek medical attention only if symptoms progressed. At HCMC about half of stroke patients are younger than age 65.
The most important thing to remember if someone is having a stroke is speed. Two million brain cells die each minute during a stroke, so the sooner a patient gets to a hospital, the more likely they will recover. “Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability in adults” says Donna Lindsay, RN, Stroke Program Coordinator at HCMC. “We have treatments that can greatly reduce and possibly prevent disability but they are much more effective when provided within 90 minutes of when stroke symptoms start.”
Remember to act F.A.S.T.
Face Drooping – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
Arm weakness – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech difficulty – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
Time to call 911 – If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Many strokes are preventable. Make sure to control your weight, exercise and keep your blood pressure lower than 140/90. Get your cholesterol checked regularly. Diabetes is considered a risk factor as is an irregular heart rhythm. Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. Drinking too much alcohol and having sleep apnea have also been linked to stroke.
At HCMC, we treat over 80% of patients in less than 60 minutes compared to the national average of 59%. That’s something to be proud of! Every minute counts during a stroke.
Donna Lindsay, MN, RN, CNS-BC, CCRN, CNRN, SCRN
Donna received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the Oregon Health Sciences University and her Master of Nursing as a Neuroscience Clinical Nurse Specialist at UCLA. She currently holds certifications as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, Critical Care RN, Neuroscience RN and Stroke RN.
Donna started her career in neuroscience more than 25 years ago in the Neuro/Trauma ICU. She developed her first stroke program in 1994 and has been involved in the coordination of stroke programs since that time.
Donna is currently employed at HCMC as the Neuroscience Clinical Nurse Specialist and Stroke Program Coordinator. She is a past Board Member of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance and Minnesota Stroke Association and participates in several stroke related committees at the Minnesota Department of Health.