The sooner a stroke is treated, the less damage to the brain's nervous tissue.
May is Stroke Awareness Month and OSF HealthCare is doing its part by encouraging caregivers and home health nurses for older adults to B.E. F.A.S.T.
The acronym is intended to help people remember the common signs of stroke and how to respond. To B.E. F.A.S.T, ask the individual the following questions:
- Balance: Are they having sudden difficulty with balance?
- Eyes: Are they experiencing vision problems in one or both eyes?
- Face Dropping: Ask them to smile. Does one side droop?
- Arm Weakness: Ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech Difficulty: Ask them to repeat a simple sentence. Are their words slurred?
- Time to call 911: If they show any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
"If you or a loved one has ever had a stroke, you may be familiar with the phrase time is brain—meaning time is of the essence when treating a stroke," Dennis Sands, MD, chief medical officer of OSF Saint Anthony's Health Center said in a statement. "With each moment that a stroke goes untreated, the nervous tissue in the brain is rapidly and irreversibly damaged."
Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of serious long-term disability; however, OSF HealthCare says 80% of strokes are preventable. Lifestyle changes to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as medication, can help reduce someone's risk for stroke.
Other common signs include sudden dizziness or trouble walking, sudden severe headache with no known cause, sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg, and sudden confusion or trouble understanding others.
Sands spoke to HealthLeaders about how caregivers and nurses for older adults should be particularly attentive to these signs in their patients and clients.
"This is why getting the word out to the community on [strokes] is important as most people are not medically trained," he said. "It is especially true to be very observant and cautious with a patient/client if they have suffered a previous stroke as they are at increased risk for another event."
Any person of any age can have a stroke, with around 800,000 experiencing them each year; one in four are recurrent strokes. Factors that can increase risk of stroke include age, gender, ethnicity, along with habits such as smoking, excessive drinking, and not getting enough exercise.
“It is especially true to be very observant and cautious with a patient/client if they have suffered a previous stroke as they are at increased risk for another event.”
Dennis Sands, MD, chief medical officer, OSF Saint Anthony's Health Center
Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death and leading cause of serious long-term disabilties.
Other common signs of a stroke are sudden dizziness, severe headaches, numbness of the face, arm, or leg, and trouble understanding others.