When Stroke Strikes, Think F.A.S.T.

Every 40 seconds, someone suffers a stroke; every four minutes, someone else dies. So when it comes to stroke, minutes matter: that’s all the time it takes for brain cells to start dying. Yet that’s also how quickly doctors can limit and often reverse the damage if a patient can get to a stroke center ASAP.

The key is to think—and act—fast, says Amie Hsia, MD, vascular neurologist and medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

“Anyone who thinks someone may be having a stroke should remember the word FAST:  If you see changes in the person’s Face, Arms or Speech, then it’s Time to call for help,” says Dr. Hsia. “Thanks to advanced technology, we can pinpoint the exact location where the stroke is happening and, for some patients, remove the clot, all within minutes. Furthermore, the clot-busting therapy, tPA, may be able to reverse the effects of stroke, even as it’s happening.  But we only have a short window of opportunity, so the earlier we see a patient, the better the chance for a good outcome.”

Stroke occurs when a blocked or ruptured blood vessel prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching a part of the brain. Ranging from minor to massive, strokes cause a variety of temporary or permanent problems making it the leading cause of adult disability in the United States today.

Fortunately, newer medical understanding and better treatments are steadfastly reducing mortality rates from stroke, which has dropped from the third to fifth cause of death. Also helping is increased public awareness, including knowing stroke’s symptoms, and seeking medical care immediately.

So when minutes matter, remember these common signs of stroke and act F.A.S.T.:

  • Face: A sudden inability to smile or a one-sided expression
  • Arms: Unexpected weakness or inability to move one arm
  • Speech: Slurred speech or difficulty talking
  • Time: If you notice any of the above, call 9-1-1 right away. Delay in receiving medical attention may increase the possibility of permanent damage or even death.

If you think you may be having a stroke, call 9-1-1.

For more information on the Comprehensive Stroke Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, click here.  To request an appointment with a specialist, call 855-546-1056.

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