According to the American Stroke Association (ASA), 80 percent of strokes are preventable. And, when proper treatment is started within 90 minutes of the onset of symptoms, the chance for a full recovery greatly increases. However, each year, the number of Americans who suffer a stroke is almost equal to the number of those who have a heart attack. This is largely due to the fact that people are not educated on the best ways of preventing a stroke, nor are they able to recognize the common signs of stroke.
National Stroke Awareness Month was created in 1989 through a combination of efforts from the United States government, the American Stroke Association, the American Heart Association, the National Stroke Association and other non-profits to raise public awareness about the warning signs of stroke, how to prevent a stroke, and the impact a stroke has on the individual, families and caregivers.
The Importance of Recognizing the Signs of Stroke
The majority of strokes can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle; making nutritious food choices, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and controlling your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Still, stroke remains a leading cause of long-term disability and is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
This is why the ASA created the acronym F.A.S.T. as a means to recognize some of the most common warning signs of stroke; if you suspect a loved one is suffering a stroke, it’s vital that you act as fast as possible so the individual has the best chance at a successful recovery. F.A.S.T. stands for:
F – Face drooping. Take note if one side of the individual’s face appears uneven or drooping. Ask him or her to smile at you.
A – Arms. If one arm seems weak, drifts down, or feels numb the individual may be suffering a stroke. Have him or her raise both arms and observe if one arm drifts downward faster than the other.
S – Speech. Does the individual’s speech sound slurred or difficult to understand? Have him or her repeat a sentence, such as “The sky is blue” or “Mary had a little lamb.” Note if the individual seems to have trouble repeating him or herself.
T – Time to call 911. Call for help right away if you notice any of the above signs. Even if the symptoms appear to go away, it’s vital to get checked out. Also, make a note of the time the symptoms started, as the hospital staff will need that information.
Keep in mind that not all individuals will display all the above warning signs. However, if you suspect your loved one could be suffering a stroke, it’s better to seek treatment regardless.
The efforts of National Stroke Awareness Month are beginning to have an impact on the country. Since 2013, overall awareness of the F.A.S.T. acronym has risen from 24 percent to 43 percent, so more people are able to recognize the warning signs of stroke – and, more importantly, help save lives.