Think FAST

February 20, 2019 1:59 pm Published by

Think FAST: Symptoms of Stroke and How to Spot Them

There are two main types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic. Hemorrhagic occurs when there is bleeding in the brain and is the less common of the two. The more common stroke is ischemic, caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain.

Peyton Preece, DO, Internal Medicine Physician at Magnolia Regional Health Center

“Eighty-seven percent of strokes are ischemic,” says Dr. Peyton Preece, an osteopathic physician at Magnolia Regional Health Center. Ischemic strokes cause permanent damage to the brain. The longer one waits to seek treatment, the more time there is for permanent damage to happen. Simply put, time matters in strokes.

Recognize the Symptoms FAST

The major symptoms of stroke are quite pronounced. “The biggest signs are unilateral or one-sided numbness or weakness, usually in the face but can be the leg as well,” informs Dr. Preece. The individual may have trouble walking. Sudden confusion can set in, or a severe headache. Someone who is suffering from a stroke may have trouble speaking or be unable to understand and appropriately answer questions. Vision troubles, such as blurry or double vision often occur.

The easy way to remember these symptoms is with the mnemonic device, FAST. Dr. Preece breaks it down, starting with “F” for “face.” “Is there asymmetry in the face? If the individual smiles, does one side not go up? Arms. Can he raise his arms or move his hands? Speech. Is he having altered speech, mumbled speech? And then the last one, ‘T’ is for time.”

Time for Treatment

“There are certain therapies we can do if you seek attention in a timely manner,” explains Dr. Preece. “The quicker a person seeks treatment after a stroke, the quicker we can reverse the stroke. Upon doing so, the better the outcome, the better the mortality rate, and the better the prognosis.” The goal is to administer treatment in less than four hours.

If symptoms are present, get to the nearest emergency department immediately. “Sometimes, doctors are able to give a medicine called tPA or an antithrombotic agent that will break up the clot or whatever may be causing the lack of blood flow,” explains Dr. Preece. “With timely treatment, the symptoms can completely resolve and you may not have any residual effects.”

This emergency treatment could be followed by a transfer to a stroke center, as well as an endovascular procedure to retrieve the clot from the brain. “There are a lot of advancements in medicine right now, but time still matters,” continues Dr. Preece. “If we wait too long, the damage is done and there is nothing else we can do, technically, except try to prevent another one from happening.”

Time for Prevention

Once a stroke has happened, the treatment clock is ticking. By comparison, there is a wealth of time to develop the habits that might prevent stroke from occurring in the first place.

Although there is nothing that may be done for genetic predisposition, many of the risk factors for stroke can be modified. Hypertension, obesity, smoking, diabetes, and cholesterol are all such factors. “You need to listen to what your primary care physician says to try to prevent strokes from occurring,” advises Dr. Preece.

To listen to an interview with Dr. Peyton Preece, an osteopathic physician at Magnolia Regional Health Center, please visit www.mrhc.org/healthcast/PeytonPreece.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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