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By Mary Bruno-Mlot, post-acute network director for Life Care’s Rocky Mountain Region


In the time it takes you to read this article, someone in the U.S. will experience a stroke – losing two million brain cells per minute.


When every second counts to save brain and function, it’s critical to recognize the signs and know what to do.


That was the message for Life Care associates and community partners, who participated in stroke education on May 17, 2016, at Life Care Center of Stonegate in Parker, Colorado. The seminar was presented by Kimberly Roth, neuroscience and stroke clinical coordinator at Parker Adventist Hospital, in honor of May being National Stroke Awareness Month.


The good news, Roth said, is that awareness campaigns by the American Heart and Stroke Association and others across the country are working: Stroke mortality in the U.S. has dropped from the third to the fifth leading cause of death. But, while the death rate from stroke has dropped, it remains the leading cause of disability – and often leads to the need for skilled nursing care and rehabilitation.


Stroke doesn’t discriminate, Roth added. It affects people of all ages (34 percent are under 65, including in-utero), gender (60 percent are women), race and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status and fitness level. Genetics and lifestyle may increase the risk for stroke. Roth reviewed the types of stroke including ischemic (clots), hemorrhagic (bleeds), and TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) and clues to identify each – from numbness and weakness to headaches, confusion and vision problems.


Stroke often happens suddenly, and time means brain, Roth said. The key to recognizing a possible stroke is remembering the acronym FAST:


FFace drooping – ask the person to smile or show his/her teeth – observe for droop on one side of face.


AArm weakness – ask the person to close eyes and extend both arms out front with palms up for about 10 seconds – note arm drift, drop or inability to extend arm.


SSpeech difficulty – ask the person to repeat a phrase such as “No ifs, ands or buts,” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Watch for slurred speech, repetition of one or more word(s) in the sentence or inability to repeat the phrase.


TTime – Call 911 right away and be prepared to provide time of first noted stroke symptom(s) or unusual behavior as well as a summary of the above mentioned findings. Call 911 even if the symptoms appear to lessen or go away.


Roth also discussed emergency treatment for stroke victims, including the importance of using EMS personnel, who are trained in early response and work closely with the emergency department. A speedy diagnosis is critical for clot-busting medication (tPA) to be effective. Providing the right medical care and rehabilitation is key – especially in the first year following a stroke – she added, recognizing great work and outcomes by the Life Care Center of Stonegate interdisciplinary team.


Our homework: Tell at least one person about FAST, and always be stroke aware!