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Many good reasons to learn how to spot a stroke

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Monday, November 6, 2023   

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke, so learning how to spot one can be vital in saving your own life, or someone else's.

As Michiganders make plans for holiday travel and get-togethers, the American Heart Association is reminding people of the need to be vigilant to recognize a leading cause of death and what nearly 190,000 Michiganders experience each year.

Dr. Peter Panagos, professor of emergency medicine and neurology at Washington University in St. Louis, said in cases of stroke, it's most important to act "FAST."

"FAST means 'F'acial asymmetry, kind of an abnormal facial droop. 'A' for arm weakness, unable to hold one arm up. And then the 'S,' speech difficulty, the speech slurred or difficult to comprehend. And then 'T' is time to call 911," Panagos outlined.

Panagos advised it is important to identify your risk factors, such as unrecognized or poorly treated high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, and use of tobacco products should be discussed with your primary care doctor. He added the best treatment for stroke is prevention.

Courtney Hall, a stroke survivor in her 30s, said she is young and did not think about stroke at all. Hall advised it is not necessary for all the signs of stroke to show up; even one or two should be enough to alert you.

"I started to feel like I was talking in slow motion," Hall recounted. "My only symptoms were the heavy arm and leg, and slowed speech. If I would have gone the first day, I could have received the clot-buster medicine. But I had to learn how to walk again; I had to learn how to use my left arm again."

Hall stressed her best advice is, "When in doubt, check it out." Even when a stroke is not fatal, it results in up to 50% of patients having a chronic disability.

The Michigan Stroke Program, run by the state's Department of Health and Human Services, is one place to start, with extensive information online.


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