A stroke is a sudden-onset neurological event that occurs when an area of the brain is not getting enough oxygen. If a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a clot, it’s called an ischemic stroke. If a blood vessel has ruptured, it is a hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic strokes are more common, while hemorrhagic strokes are more severe.
There is also what is known as a ministroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA), in which symptoms disappear after 24 hours. Though not as serious, they still need to be evaluated immediately by the ER staff.
The American Stroke Association has developed an easy-to-remember aid to help identify and respond to a possible stroke: FAST!
F = Face drooping. Is one side of the person’s face drooping or numb? Or is their smile uneven?
A = Arm weakness. Is one arm experiencing weakness or numbness? If both arms are raised, does
one droop down?
S = Speech difficulty. If the person is asked to repeat a simple phrase, can they repeat it back? Is it
slurred or hard to understand?
T = Time to call 9-1-1. If any of these signs are present, dial 9-1-1 immediately and note when the
symptoms first appeared.
In case of a stroke, the sooner you are treated the better. A miracle clot-busting drug known as tPA can minimize, even reverse, damage caused by a stroke, but it has to be administered within three hours of the onset of symptoms.
The sooner a stroke is treated, the less likely it is that a patient will suffer permanent impairment. Time is indeed of the essence.