Monday, December 07, 2009


Every second counts when it comes to stroke

There used to be little that could be done to treat a stroke. Patients were made as comfortable as possible and often spent their remaining years on the sidelines of life.

Today physicians have the ability to stop some strokes before permanent damage is done. There are clot busting drugs available to dissolve blockages and surgical tools that can actually pluck the clot right out of the vessel.

The key is to get to the hospital as soon as possible. All of these treatments must be done within a very few hours of when the stroke starts, which makes Backus Hospital’s recent designation by the state as a Primary Stroke Center most important.

The designation from the state Department of Public Health means Backus offers, fast, high quality stroke care for its patients.

This is crucial because every second counts when it comes to strokes. Approximately 750,000 Americans suffered a stroke in the past year, and 160,000 of them died. For the remaining stroke victims and their loved ones, their lives were forever changed.

Stroke remains the number three killer of Americans. Each year more than twice as many American women die from stroke than from breast cancer. It is the number one cause of disability in our country. These are staggering statistics for a disease we don’t often hear much about.

A stroke is a lack of blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by a clot, as is the case in an ischemic stroke. A stroke can also be the result of a brain bleed, also known as a hemorrhagic stroke. When the blood flow stops brain cells are damaged; if flow is not restored quickly the cells will die.

The American Stroke Association estimates that up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes. So know your numbers — blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. While not the only causes of strokes, these are the big three.

You may have no symptoms when your numbers are elevated, so it is imperative to see your doctor regularly so she or he can monitor them and help you maintain healthy levels.

It is also important to know the symptoms of stroke. Know these warning signs and teach them to others:

• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

If you think you or a loved one has symptoms of a stroke, it is vital that you seek immediate emergency medical treatment. Remember the acronym F.A.S.T.

Facial Droop — Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the mouth droop?
Arms — Ask the person to extend their arms. Does one drift down?
Speech — Have the person say a simple phrase. Are the words slurred or garbled?
Time — Time is brain. Call 911 and get the person to a Stroke Center fast!

Don’t delay. Time lost is brain lost. For more information visit

Cindy Arpin, is a registered nurse and Stroke Coordinator at The William W. Backus Hospital. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at E-mail Ms. Arpin or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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