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5 things you need to know about strokes

SPONSORED — Your brain cells are important, and that’s why preventing and promptly treating a stroke is so important. Strokes, which occur when a blood vessel delivering blood and oxygen to the brain gets blocked or ruptures, can cause permanent damage to the parts of the body controlled by the brain cells affected. In recognition of National Stroke Month, take a minute to brush up on what you know about strokes because it could save a life (maybe even yours).

It’s the leading cause of preventable disability

No one wants to spend his or her life disabled, but unfortunately, many stroke survivors do. What’s truly tragic is that 80 percent of stokes are actually preventable, according to the American Stroke Association. The easiest ways to prevent your risk of stroke are common sense: manage your blood pressure, control cholesterol, get active, eat better, reduce blood sugar, stop smoking and lose weight. If you’re at risk for a stroke you might want to ask your doctor about an aspirin regimen, which may help as well.

You may not realize you had a stroke

As deadly as strokes can be, you may suffer one without even knowing it. That’s because many of the symptoms of stroke aren’t visible to the victim himself. In fact, strokes are identified by someone other than the patient a whopping 66 percent of the time, due to certain physical symptoms. These symptoms include facial drooping and slurred or incomprehensible speech. When you witness these symptoms in someone else, it’s time to call 911. Additionally, you may be able to recognize a stroke if you have arm weakness, dizziness, loss of balance, sudden headache, numbness, blurred vision and trouble speaking.

Treatment is available – if you act fast

While strokes are highly treatable, that treatment loses its effectiveness quickly. Recently, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association released new treatment guidelines for the most common type of stroke – the kind caused by a blood clot – widening the number of patients eligible for crucial treatment. Treatment may include the use of a clot-busting drug called alteplase. Studies show that, when administered 90 minutes of the onset of symptoms, patients are three times more likely to recover with little or no disability. The guidelines also expanded the treatment window for some patients up to 24 hours through a procedure called thrombectomy, which mechanically removes the clot. That’s why timing is so crucial if you suspect you or a loved one has suffered a stroke.

It’s all about FAST

You already know that acting quickly is crucial when you suspect a stroke. • That’s the purpose for the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative, sponsored by Medtronic, which increases stroke awareness by teaching the acronym FAST. When you suspect a stroke, think FAST:

F: Face drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Speech difficulty
T: Time to call 911

When you witness facial drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty, the clock is ticking. Get help immediately.

Getting help is crucial

If you suspect a stroke, it’s not time to pack a hospital bag or get loaded into the car. Calling an ambulance is the fastest way to get the crucial treatment you require. According to the American Stroke Association, dialing 911 increases your likelihood of recovering from a stroke without disability because hospitals are set up to treat stroke patients who arrive by ambulance.

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