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How to recognize a stroke — and how to respond

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May is Stroke Awareness Month. What is a stroke? A stroke is brain cell death due to a disruption of blood flow to those cells. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and the leading cause of disability in the country. Strokes can occur at any age, even to young adults in their 20s and 30s.

To recognize stroke symptoms and to treat it effectively, please try to BE FAST:

B = Balance issues. A sudden onset of dizziness or vertigo — a spinning sensation — or loss of balance may indicate a stroke.

E = Eye issues. A sudden onset of blurry vision or loss of vision or other visual changes may be a symptom of a stroke.

F = Facial droop. A sudden onset of facial droop is a very common symptom of stroke.

A = Arms and legs. Sudden weakness or numbness in the arm or leg on one side of the body is a classic stroke symptom.

S = Speech. A sudden onset of slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding may be a symptom of a stroke.

T = Timing. Treatment for stroke is most effective when it is started as soon as possible, when fewer brain cells have died. The “clot busting” drug called tPA is most effective when given within three hours of the onset of symptoms, and thrombectomy — removing the clot with a catheter — can be performed for up to 24 hours at certain comprehensive stroke centers.

While there are other possible symptoms of stroke, those listed above are some of the most common. If you or someone you know are experiencing one or more of these symptoms of stroke, please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.

Close to 2 million brain cells may die every minute during a stroke. The earlier you get treated, the better your outcome will be. So please don’t wait!

Dr. Andy Su is a board-certified emergency physician at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital and the medical director of the hospital’s Joint Commission-certified primary stroke program.

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