World Stroke Day reminds us that Minutes Can Save Lives
One in four people over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime, according to the World Stroke Organization. That’s a staggering figure, and this year, the organization’s World Stroke Day campaign is all about mitigating the lasting effects of a stroke with quick action.
Today, Oct. 29, is World Stroke Day, and the organization is using the #PreciousTime hashtag to promote this year’s theme, Minutes Can Save Lives.
At Pride, many of our clients rely on our mobility devices after having a stroke, either as a temporary tool during rehab, or to overcome permanent effects. It’s truly an honor to serve them with industry-leading mobility technology. That’s why we’re taking a few minutes today to talk about catching a stroke before it can do permanent harm. We’re also discussing preventive measures to avoid having one in the first place.
Anatomy of a stroke
A stroke comes in two main types: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Those are some two-dollar words that basically mean opposite things. The first and most common type, ischemic, happens when something disrupts blood flow to the brain like a clot. This starves the brain of oxygen, which leads to rapid destruction inside the brain. Brain cells begin to die off within minutes of losing oxygen.
Hemorrhagic strokes — think hemorrhage — happen when a blood vessel bursts and leaks blood onto the brain.
Then there’s the ministroke, also called a transient ischemic attack or TIA. A TIA happens when blood flow is restricted to the brain for a shorter amount of time, but as noted earlier, even a few minutes without oxygen could lead to lasting brain damage.
In all cases, speedy intervention is the best way to prevent more permanent effects.
In recent years, the memory aid FAST has stretched to include two extra letters, BE, which stand for other warning signs.
Research found the original FAST — which stands for face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty (the final T is for “time to call 911”) — did not adequately cover all the symptoms of a stroke. In fact 14% of acute ischemic stroke patients wouldn’t be able to identify one when it was happening using the FAST memory aid alone, according to the research.
So health experts added B for balance and E for eyes. Because people experiencing a stroke often experience a disruption to their balance and vision.
It’s a lot of discussion for what on its face seems like a silly mnemonic; however, silly memory aids work.
Case in point: if the windshield on your car gets chipped, what’s the first company you think of to call for repairs. We won’t say it here, but it rhymes with “save right.” And now the jingle’s stuck in your head (you’re welcome).
Memory aids like BE FAST become even more useful in a high-anxiety situation, like if you or a loved one experiences a stroke. Under all that stress, you need a quick tool to figure out what’s going on. BE SAFE gets that job done.
The most important thing to do next is call 911.
In most cases, a doctor can intervene with a drug that quickly breaks up the blood clot. Sometimes, more invasive techniques, like using a stent, are necessary, according to Mayo Clinic. Either way, intervention within the first few hours of a stroke is the best way to cap long-term effects.
The World Stroke Organization says the best ways to prevent stroke look a lot like the ways we prevent heart disease.
Eat healthy foods. Get enough exercise. If you smoke, quit. Put a lid on how much alcohol you drink. Keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
People with diabetes and other chronic illnesses are more susceptible. So are people older than 55, men and Black people. Finally, if you have a family history of stroke, you’re at greater risk, too. Run through your family tree. The preventive measures above are even more important if anyone in your family has had a stroke.