Vail Daily column: Recognizing a stroke may save a life |

Vail Daily column: Recognizing a stroke may save a life

Remember the first three letters of stroke – S,T, R – and now another T.

• S is for “smile”: Ask the person to smile. If one side of the face appears to be crooked or drooping, call 911.

• T is for “talk”: Ask the person to talk and speak a simple sentence, such as “It is a sunny day,” coherently. If the words are slurred or if he or she cannot speak, call 911.

• R is for “raise”: Ask the person to raise both arms. If he or she has trouble with either one, call 911.

• T is for “tongue”: Ask the person to stick out his or her tongue.

If the tongue is crooked – if it goes to one side or the other – that is also an indication of a stroke. Call 911.

Stroke symptoms usually come on suddenly and should always be treated as a medical emergency.

Symptoms include a sudden onset of the following: Weakness or numbness of face, arm and/or leg of one side of the body, inability to understand spoken language, inability to speak, inability to write, vertigo, gait imbalance, and/or double vision.

Speed on getting to an emergency center is critical in order to reverse or minimize the effects of a stroke. “Time is brain.” The clot busting drug Tissue Plasminogen Activator must be given within three hours of symptoms of stroke. After three hours, the risk of bleeding outweighs the benefits.

TPA is a treatment for stroke that must be administered only after a CT scan, ECG and other tests are done to determine what type of stroke the victim has.

• Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S behind heart disease and cancer.

• Over 160,000 Americans die from stroke each year.

• Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the U.S.

• There are more than 6 million stroke survivors living today in U.S., and two-thirds of them are disabled.

• There are approximately 700,000 strokes in U.S each year.

• Strokes can occur at any age.

• Up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

Risk factors

• High blood pressure.

• High cholesterol.

• Diabetes.

• Smoking quadruples the risk factor.

• Family history of stroke.

• Obesity.

• Previous strokes.

• Women who smoke and use birth control pills are at higher risk.

• Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer every year.

• More women than men die of stroke.

• African-Americans are twice as likely as Caucasians to suffer from strokes.

Two kinds of strokes

• 80 percent are ischemic stroke, caused by the narrowing or hardening of arteries, frequently in the neck and carotids, leading to blood clots, thus slowing down blood flow to the brain. Another factor may be blood clots in the heart due to a rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation. These clots move and block a narrower artery in the brain.

• The other type is hemorrhagic stroke, in which blood spills into the brain or surrounding tissues. A common cause is an aneurysm or uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. His contact information is:, 970-328-5526.

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