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Senior Citizen's Guide to North Jersey

Symptoms of a Stroke

Stroke is a medical emergency. The Comprehensive Stroke Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center reminds people that knowing the symptoms of a stroke and acting quickly can make the difference between life and death, for you or someone you know.

“Stroke symptoms may often be minimized and possibly reversed if treatment is delivered early,” says Doreen Monks, R.N., MSN, Advanced Practice Nurse and Program Coordinator of The Comprehensive Stroke Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. “Studies have shown that clot-busting drugs(tPA) delivered within the first three hours may be effective in limiting the debilitating effects of stroke, patients must recognize the warning signs and call 911 immediately.”

For those who suspect someone is having stroke, Ms. Monks advises they just remember the word “FAST.” Each one of the letters stands for a word which you can use to uncover a symptom of stroke.

F = Facial weakness; ask the person to smile to test for facial weakness

A = Arm weakness; ask the person to hold their arms straight out in front of them to see if one drifts

S = Speech disturbance; ask the person to say a simple sentence (the cow jumped over the moon) to see if they are able to understand and repeat it

T = Time to call 911

Almost half of all stroke patients arrive at the emergency room by their own means. Ms. Monks strongly advises against it. “If you or someone near you is exhibiting any sign of stroke, call 911. Transport by an ambulance is best for getting to the Emergency Department,” she said. “Doing so allows emergency medical personnel the proper time to mobilize resources such as a CT scan and the stroke team ahead of the patient’s arrival.”

Ms Monks cautions that stroke does not discriminate, and although some people are at higher risk than others due to lifestyle and family history, anyone can have a stroke. Treatable risk factors include: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart problems.

People often wait to see if their symptoms will go away and unwittingly put themselves in greater danger. Symptoms that last for only a few minutes and then subside may indicate a transient ischemic attack or TIA.

“A TIA or ‘mini-stroke’ is a serious medical event and requires treatment; it is also a potential warning sign of more dangerous stroke in the future. Seeking medical care during a TIA may help physicians prevent future stroke,” says Ms Monks.

If you think you or a person with you is having a stroke DON’T WAIT, call 911 immediately.

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