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During Stroke Month, Acting FAST is Key

The faster a stroke is identified and treated, the less likely it is to cause damage to the brain. (dierk schaefer/Flickr)
The faster a stroke is identified and treated, the less likely it is to cause damage to the brain. (dierk schaefer/Flickr)
May 3, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S. D. – May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and health groups and medical professionals are encouraging people to assess their own risk factors for stroke.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in South Dakota, but is largely preventable if people stay on top of such indicators as high blood pressure.

Steve Painter was at a hospital in Sioux Falls receiving treatment for a heart flutter two weeks ago when he had a stroke. Painter said he was lucky enough to be near a doctor who could perform an embolectomy, a procedure to remove clots and restore blood flow to his brain.

"So, the fact that he was so close and they were able to do that in a relatively short period of time, I think, made a huge difference in my case," Painter said, "because, as I've been given to understand, the longer it takes to clear the blockage, the more damage in the brain there's likely to be."

Painter currently is in physical therapy and his doctors have told him he's on the path to a full recovery.

Someone has a stroke in the United States every 40 seconds. If treatment is received quickly, strokes are much more manageable than they have ever been in the past.

According to Chrissy Meyer, communications director for the American Heart Association in North and South Dakota, about 80 percent of strokes are preventable. She credits the awareness efforts by her organization and the American Stroke Association for the nation seeing a decline in deaths attributed to stroke over the last several years.

"We feel that this is largely a factor of educating people about their risk factors of stroke," Meyer said, "but also helping people to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke using acronyms like FAST, and people getting treatment in a timely fashion."

The acronym FAST is used to recognize the most common warning signs of stroke: "F" stands for face drooping, "A" for arm weakness, "S" for speech difficulty, and "T" for time to call 9-1-1 if a person is showing any of these symptoms.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD