By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Stroke is the No. 3 killer of Americans behind cancer in all forms and heart disease.
It’s especially prevalent among African-Americans, and many lifestyle factors common in South make it more likely here.
Physicians from Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County told more than 100 attendees at the hospital’s Stroke Awareness Seminar, hosted Tuesday at Hillcrest Baptist Church.
“The goal today is for you to know what a stroke is, what the warning signs are, and whether you should go to the hospital,” said Dr. Tim Thompson, medical director of hospital medicine, adding that controlling risk factors is crucial.
“A stroke is any interruption of blood flow to the brain that causes loss of brain cells,” he said.
Thompson emphasized that controllable risk factors for stroke include diet – high fat, high cholesterol, high salt and obesity – along with high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and heavy alcohol use. Noncontrollable factors include race (African-Americans, Native Americans and Alaskan Americans are at higher-than-average risk) and gender (men have more strokes, but women are more likely to die from stroke).
Ninety percent are ischemic strokes (from blockage in an artery), but hemorrhagic strokes (from rupture of an artery) are more often fatal.
Although treatments are very different for each kind of stroke, symptoms can be similar, and time is of the essence in both.
Dr. Robert Pitcock, BMH-UC’s director of emergency medicine, offered the “FAST” acrostic to help remember stroke symptoms. F stands for a Face that’s uneven; A is for Arm, with one weak or hanging down; S is for Speech that may be slurred, and T is for Time – Call 911 Now!
Pitcock said any stroke symptom merits a call for an ambulance.
“Don’t go to your doctor’s office. Come straight to the emergency room, and the best way is by ambulance,” he said. “The paramedics can put you on oxygen, on a heart monitor, on an EKG. One of the most important things they can do is give a report to the hospital. When you get to the ER, we’ll know what to be ready for.”
Pitcock said NOT to take an aspirin if a stroke is suspected as it could make a bleeding stroke worse but to note the time of symptom onset.
“A lot of treatments for strokes are time-dependent,” he said.