Act F.A.S.T. for stroke

ST. PETERSBURG — Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, killing 130,000 Americans each year. One out of every 20 deaths can be attributed to a stroke making it a top five disease state killer.

Dr. Charlie W. Colquitt

Dr. Charlie W. Colquitt

Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke, and every four minutes someone dies of one. Strokes disproportionately affect African Americans at a higher rate than their white counterparts. A higher percent of black women (39 percent) died of stroke before age 75 compared with white women (17.3 percent) as did black men (60.7 percent) compared to white men (31.1 percent).

Stroke is a leading cause of disability and reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

There are three types of strokes: ischemic, hemorrhagic and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Most strokes (85 percent) are ischemic strokes, the arteries that supply the brain become block by a blood clot.

Hemorrhagic strokes occur when an artery in the brain breaks open. TIAs, or mini strokes, are also caused by an artery being blocked in the brain but only for a short time (less than five minutes).

Risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. These risk factors can be prevented or controlled by going to the doctor and working with your healthcare team.

Lifestyle modifications such as avoiding smoking, minimizing alcohol consumption, eating a balanced diet and exercising help to reduce the risk of stroke. Uncontrollable risk factors are heredity, age, gender and ethnicity.

Understanding the warning signs of a stroke and getting help fast is critical to treatment options and the difference between life, disability and death. To help recognize the signs use the act FAST acronym:

Face – ask person to smile. One side of face will appear to droop. Symptoms include numbness or weakness in the face and trouble seeing.

Arms – ask person the raise both arms. One arm will drift downward. A stroke causes weakness on one side of the body or even paralysis in one arm or leg.

Speech – ask person to talk. Speech will sound slurred or strange. Stroke may cause confusion and affect a person’s speech or understanding.

Time – if you observe any of the above signs, call 9-1-1. This should be done right away and record the time when the first symptom appeared.

Dr. Charlie W. Colquitt is the Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Florida A & M University, College of Pharmacy and provides services for Community Health Centers of Pinellas, Inc.

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