Stroke Awareness Month: How to lower risk of a stroke

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 12:34 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Experts say stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

A stroke is when you are not getting adequate oxygen and blood flow to the brain, whether that be from a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel.

“Approximately 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, which accounts for a stroke every 40 seconds. It does kill more than 137,000 people a year. Somebody is dying from a stroke every four minutes,” Amy Markham, a coordinator with Augusta Health’s Stroke Program, said.

Markham says every minute that goes by without treatment for a stroke, 1.9 million brain cells can die.

Some side effects of a stroke include facial drooping, left or right arm weakness depending on the side the stroke has impacted and leg weakness. Speech may also be impacted.

Markham says if you notice someone may be having a stroke it is vital to B.E. F.A.S.T.

  • B: Balance. Is the person dizzy? Can they walk?
  • E: Check for eye issues. Can they see? Is the person’s vision blurred?
  • F: Check to see if there is a facial droop. Can they smile? Is one side of their face sagging?
  • A: Arm weakness. Are their arms moving normally?
  • S: Speech difficulty. They may know what they want to say but is their speech slurred.
  • T: Call 911, immediately. Do not try to drive yourself.

“Have a good contact, who is their next of kin if they are not with them,” Markham said. “Have all their medications that you can find. Know their past medical history, especially if they have a history of any heart problems. Any irregular heart rate or high blood pressure that they might be on medications [for] that will ultimately affect their treatment when they get to the hospital.”

One of the most important pieces of information to have when it comes to treating someone who has had a stroke is their “last known well time”.

“Not the time that you discovered the symptoms but the time the patient was at their baseline, functioning normal,” Markham said.

The last known well time will determine what kinds of treatment options are available following the stroke.

“Eighty percent of strokes are preventable. High blood pressure is one risk factor of having a stroke,” Markham explained. “Irregular heart rate is number two, but you have to monitor your blood pressure take your medicine, eating a low-fat heart-healthy diet exercise if you are diabetic taking your medication, and following up with your providers. All of that is preventable, what is not preventable is age, race, and if you have had a prior history of stroke.”

Augusta Health hosts a Stroke Club for those who have had a stroke or may be a caregiver for someone who has had a stroke. You can find more information here or by contacting Shelly Payne at (540) 332-4047 for more information.

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