May is stroke awareness month. According to the American Stroke Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds and stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability. The good news is that strokes are often preventable and treatable. Here are five tips to arm yourself in the fight against strokes
1 Think F.A.S.T.
Doctors use the abbreviation F.A.S.T when educating patients about strokes. F stands for facial drooping (especially on one side). A stands for arm weakness. S stands for slurred speech. T stands for time to go to the emergency room.
“Time is brain tissue,” said Dr. Satish Gadi, a cardiologist with the Cardiovascular Institute of the South. “Most strokes are very treatable if treated within three hours of the onset of symptoms.”
2 Call 911
If you correctly interpret ANY of the previously listed symptoms, you should not drive yourself or a loved one to the hospital. Instead, call 911 immediately so paramedics can begin treatment en route. While waiting for the ambulance, chew an aspirin (don’t swallow it).
“It (chewing) is the fastest way to absorb the aspirin,” said Dr. Gadi.
3 Identify your risk factors
The risk factors for stroke are the same for heart disease. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, advanced age, and a family history are all risk factors. All are important, but blood pressure in particular should be carefully monitored.
“Your blood pressure has to be aggressively controlled and maintained in a narrow range,” said Dr. Gadi.
4 A local problem
Louisiana residents are particularly vulnerable to stroke. According to the American Heart Association, Louisiana has more smokers and more obese residents than the American average. Only 70.1 percent of Louisiana adults participated in physical activity in the past month, compared to 77.1 percent for the American average.
5 Be proactive
The best way to prevent a stroke is to be honest with yourself about your risk factors. If any of them apply to you, schedule an appointment with a physician so you can be screened. Your doctor can then advise you on a proactive plan to reduce your risk.