Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fast Action Required for Brain Attack

     You probably know someone who’s suffered a stroke. I know of two people, and both of them were under the age of sixty. Well, I guess you could say that I knew Dick Clark–I spent many New Year’s Eve parties with him. For people who experience an ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel or artery in the brain), the sooner treatment begins, the better the chances for recovery.

     Why is fast action so important for stroke victims? 
Stroke, sometimes called a "brain attack," occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. According to the National Institute of Health, brain cells in the immediate area begin to die because they stop getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function. The window of opportunity to treat stroke patients is three hours, but they need to get to the hospital within 60 minutes to be evaluated and potentially treated with a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).

     Where you go for stroke care is important too. Recently, Meritus Medical Center was re-designated as a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS). This means that EMS brings patients who are within a 30-minute drive and who have stroke symptoms to Meritus Medical Center rather than taking them to a closer, non-certified healthcare provider. But that’s not all. Meritus Medical Center received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award—the only central or western Maryland hospital earning this level of recognition.

     The award and designation illustrates an important point: Meritus Medical Center’s providers have the knowledge and resources you need when it comes to stroke care. Their stroke team, including a “teleconferenced” vascular neurologist from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is ready when EMS notifies the emergency department of a stroke patient’s pending arrival.

     The effects from stroke range from mild to severe, and include problems with speaking, thinking, or even paralysis. Suddenness is the tell-tale sign of stroke. If someone you know suddenly has trouble walking (loss of balance), seeing (blurred or blackened vision), or speaking (slurred speech, confusion), call 911 right away. Other signs of stroke include weakness on one side of the body and an unexplained, sudden, and severe headache.

     There are ways to prevent stroke—and you’ve heard them before. Stop smoking, watch your weight, control high blood pressure and diabetes, keep your cholesterol in check, limit alcohol intake, exercise, and eat your fruits and veggies. Remember, stroke is a medical emergency—time waits for no one.

If you think someone is having a stroke, act F.A.S.T.

Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?

Time. If the person shows any of these symptoms, call 911.

By: Anne Gill

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