Most everyone has heard of the acronym “F-A-S-T” when it comes to figuring out if someone is having a stroke. The National Stroke Association uses this as an easy way for people to remember what to look for to determine if help is needed:
- F stands for face. Have the person smile and watch for any drooping in their lips, cheeks, or eyelids.
- A stands for arm. Have the person raise his or her arms and notice if one arm goes down.
- S stands for speech. Have the person to repeat something and see if the speech is slurred or unusual in any way.
- T stands for time. Timely treatment will save brain cells and maybe even a life. If any of the symptoms are present, call 9-1-1.
Research shows that the speed of treatment in stroke patients is critical, and even treating “mini-strokes” (transient ischemic attacks, or “TIAs”) fast can help stroke patients’ prognosis for recovery.
Why Speed Matters When Treating a Stroke
A stroke happens when blood circulation is cut off to the brain, either from a hemorrhage when a blood vessel has burst or from a blood clot. The Columbia Department of Neurology reports that “When one of these problems occurs, a person may experience one or more symptoms that happen suddenly. The symptoms may continue or they may disappear within minutes to hours.” Unfortunately, many people think that if the symptoms go away, there isn’t a problem. Seeking treatment within 60 minutes offers the best outcome, but treatment within three hours of symptoms starting can also help minimize the loss of brain cells and function.
Studies show that for every minute after a blockage happens, an average of “1.9 million neurons, 14 billion synapses and 12 km of myelinated fibres are destroyed.” Hospitals and first responders are working to reduce the time needed to get stroke patients the treatment they need for their specific type of stroke. The first test to determine the type of stroke is a CT scan, and some hospitals in Houston are already placing CT scanners in ambulances to provide experts at the hospital the information they need to diagnose the type of stroke. Once that diagnosis is made, paramedics can administer clot-busting drugs in the ambulance if needed. Measures like this will save precious minutes in administering treatment for stroke patients.
TIAs Need Immediate Attention, Too
Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) need to be addressed quickly by medical professionals even if their symptoms subside. Researchers Musuka et al. indicate that “the risk of disabling stroke after transient ischemic attack or minor stroke is substantial…Recognition and early (i.e., same-day) evaluation and treatment may substantively reduce this risk.” Patients who experience TIAs can use this as an opportunity to talk to health professionals about how to reduce their risk factors and possibly prevent stroke in the future.
When it comes to a stroke, speed in diagnosis and treatment can save your brain’s cells and reduce your risk of dying or being severely disabled. The best treatment for a stroke, however, is preventing it from happening in the first place. Doctorpedia suggests checking with your doctor for ideas about reducing your risk factors for stroke!
Nan Kuhlman is an author, freelance writer, and part-time university professor based in Los Angeles, CA. She currently works full-time as a technical writer in Los Angeles and part-time as an online adjunct writing instructor. She has written for scholarly publications like the University of California, Davis Writing on the Edge and Chapman University’s Anastamos Interdisciplinary Journal, among others.