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BE FAST to spot strokes, a leading US killer

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 12, 2022

Image supplied, Adobe Stock

The acronym BE FAST explains the warning signs to watch for in someone experiencing a stroke.

The Save A Life campaign is well underway this month to bring about the awareness of strokes.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and health care workers are reminding the public to educate themselves about the disease so they can recognize the signs and get help in a timely manner.

Strokes are the second-leading cause of death in the United States, only behind heart attacks, said Dr. Matthew Grantz, stroke director at St. Mark’s Hospital and lead neurologist for the MountainStar Healthcare Region which includes Ogden Regional Medical Center, Brigham Community Hospital, Lakeview Hospital and Timpanogos Regional Hospital.

According to the American Heart Association, every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke. About 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year.

The two types of strokes are ischemic strokes, which cause clots to form in the brain, and hemorrhagic strokes, which cause bleeding in the brain. Ischemic strokes make up 87% of strokes, Grantz said.

Symptoms of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness in the arm, face or leg, especially on one side of the body; trouble speaking or understanding speech; changes in vision; dizziness; sudden confusion; lack of coordination; drooping on one side of the face; or a sudden, severe headache. One of the best ways to remember symptoms is to think of the acronym BE FAST, which stands for balance, eyes, face, arms, speech and time. If you notice any changes in these areas, get help immediately, doctors say, as time is crucial in receiving prompt treatment and possibly avoiding disability and death.

In December, Grantz announced the use of a new fast-acting medication for ischemic strokes that can rapidly target and dissolve clots in the brain.

Tenecteplase, also called TNK, can be given to a stroke victim within five seconds, saving millions of brain cells while specifically targeting the blood clot, he said.

“This medication is an amazing advancement for patients with ischemic stroke,” he said. “It’s given through an IV over five seconds. It grabs onto the clot quickly and it’s also selective to the clot, so it knows right where to go.”

The medication has been shown to increase the chances of survival and leads to better patient outcomes on average.

Some of the main risk factors for stroke, according to stroke.org, include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, abnormal heart rhythms, smoking, a history of mini strokes and even bad air quality. Nearly half of American adults don’t realize they have high blood pressure because there are no obvious symptoms.

The organization recommends getting regular blood pressure screenings, getting seven to nine hours of sleep, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, eating a healthy diet, reducing your intake of sodium, added sugar and saturated and trans fats, and not smoking or vaping.

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