Stroke is an emergency, know the signs

-A A +A

For every hour that a stroke is untreated, 120 million irreplaceable brain cells die and the brain ages 3.6 years.

Your quick response in recognizing stroke symptoms and calling for help is vital to your future health. Stroke is very treatable if you recognize the situation and seek help immediately.

If you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate. Call 911 immediately.

• Severe headache

• Sudden dizziness

• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes

• Sudden confusion

• Trouble speaking

• Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body.

Strokes will affect about 750,000 Americans this year, an astounding one every 14 seconds. About 163,000 of those people will die from stroke – or one every three minutes.

In Kentucky, we rank 11th in the nation in death from strokes. Strokes account for 5 percent of all deaths in Kentucky and 2 percent of all hospitalizations. Kentucky is in the heart of the nation’s “stroke belt.”

In Oldham County, EMS responds to an average of 80 stroke events each year.

The most effective treatment for stroke is prevention.

Public education (through articles such as this and other sources) and getting speedy treatment for stroke is vitally important.

Stroke has many risk factors – some uncontrollable (such as age, gender, family history and history of diabetes and stroke). Some factors are very much controllable, including high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, smoking, being overweight and excessive alcohol consumption (more than one drink per day for women; two drinks per day for men).

For those who suffer strokes, treatment has advanced dramatically in the last few years. Because of the extensive training that emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics receive, they can help identify strokes early and may be able to treat some secondary effects of the stroke before taking the patient to the hospital.

By taking patients by ambulance to hospitals that are especially equipped and have staff trained in stroke care, we help ensure that stroke patients receive rapid and efficient treatment. We know that “time lost is brain lost.”

In Oldham County we are fortunate that Baptist Health La Grange has been named a Certified Primary Stroke Center. This designation is similar to the stroke certification held by Baptist Health Louisville and means that the hospital meets national quality standards for excellence in stroke care.

To achieve this certification, Baptist Health La Grange formed and trained a stroke response team that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to rapidly treat stroke patients brought in to the Emergency Department.

The staff follows national guidelines that have been proven to ensure quality care.

To best minimize the effects of a stroke, a patient should receive proper care within a narrow three- to four and a half-hour time frame. The sooner that you recognize the symptoms – and call 911 for assistance – the better your chances. Meeting the time frame means you will be eligible to receive the only FDA-approved drug for stroke – t-PA.

The hospital provides stroke education at more than 80 local events a year (mostly health fairs) to increase your awareness of stroke symptoms so that you can receive this life-saving treatment if needed.

Remember – stroke is an emergency. An emergency means calling 911 so you can receive immediate treatment from trained personnel.

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.