With a stroke, time lost is brain lost

By Eileen Hawkins, RN, MSN, CNRN | Apr 27, 2012
Eileen Hawkins, Stroke Program coordinator at Pen Bay Medical Center.

Stroke is the number four cause of death in this country and the leading cause of adult disability. Stroke claims more than 137,000 lives each year and accounts for one of every 18 deaths in this country. According to the American Stroke Association, on average, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies of a stroke about every three to four minutes.

Stroke awareness

Know the warning signs of stroke and don't delay in seeking treatment. Stroke warning signs can be subtle. They may not be as obvious as, for example, the crushing chest pain that often signals a heart attack. Missing the warning signs of stroke, however, may put you in danger in a matter of minutes. We urge everyone to think about and remember the phrase "time lost is brain lost."

Warning signs of stroke include:

· Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;

· Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;

· Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;

· Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;

· Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you witness someone having any of these warning signs or experience any of these warning signs yourself, call 911 immediately. Stroke is a medical emergency. Treatments are available for the most common type of stroke when a person seeks immediate medical attention.

You may be able to save a life or prevent long-term disability.

Stroke prevention

In addition to stroke recognition, it is important to understand stroke prevention. Many strokes can be prevented. Understand your personal risk factors for stroke in order to avoid a first-time stroke or prevent a recurrence.

Below are six educational tips for reducing stroke risk. Share this information from the National Stroke Association (stroke.org) with your family and friends.

· High blood pressure is the primary cause of stroke. Know the role that managing your blood pressure plays in lowering your stroke risk.

· Cholesterol or plaque build-up in the arteries can block normal blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke. All adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol checked at least once every five years.

· Atrial fibrillation is a type of irregular or "racing" heartbeat that can cause blood to collect in the heart and potentially form a clot, which can travel to a person's brain and cause a stroke or brain attack. This condition increases a person's risk for stroke by 500 percent. Unfortunately, many Americans who have AF don't know it.

· Diabetes can double or quadruple your risk for stroke. Talk to your doctor and learn how to manage your diabetes and stroke risk at the same time.

· A transient ischemic attack is a mini-stroke with stroke symptoms that last less than 24 hours before disappearing. More than one-third of all people who have a TIA will have a stroke.

· Tobacco use, smoking and alcohol use increase your risk for stroke. Consider quitting smoking or tobacco use and drinking alcohol in moderation. Remember that alcohol can interact with some drugs, so talk with your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you are currently taking.

Pen Bay’s Stroke Center will present a free program on stroke awareness on May 1 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Picker Family Resource Center on the Pen Bay Medical Center campus. Please call to register at 596-8950.

For more information about awareness and the prevention of strokes, please visit the Primary Stroke website at: pbmc.org/stroke.

Eileen Hawkins is coordinator of the Stroke Program at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport. Pen Bay is a certified Joint Commission Primary Stroke Center. This certification of distinction is awarded to hospitals that make exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke.

Pen Bay Medical Center is the leading regional referral hospital in Midcoast Maine and a member of the not-for-profit Pen Bay Healthcare family of services, which includes Pen Bay Physicians & Associates, Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care and Hospice, Quarry Hill Retirement Community and the Knox Center for Long Term Care. Through these organizations, and with a staff of more than 100 physicians and more than 1,500 healthcare professionals, we are able to provide the people of Midcoast Maine with a continuum of both routine and specialty patient-centered medical services. A member of the MaineHealth system, Pen Bay Medical Center ranked in the top 10 percent for quality and safety among the more than 1,000 hospitals in 43 states that participated in a 2011 survey by the Leapfrog Group. Pen Bay also ranked fourth out of 37 hospitals in Maine. For more information, please visit pbmc.org.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Mike Czosnek | Apr 28, 2012 16:46

We agree Irene! !!!

Posted by: Irene Hopkins | Apr 28, 2012 08:15

Eileen, you are so beautiful! Ok now, I'll read the article. ; )

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