When it comes to stroke, you may have heard the phrase “time is brain.” For every minute a stroke is left untreated, almost 2 million brain cells die. And depending on the severity, a stroke can age someone 36 years, due to loss of motor skills, thought processing and other functions.
If left untreated or if time to treatment is delayed, stroke can lead to long-term disability or death. The sooner treatment is given, the better the outcome.
Time and treatment
Most strokes are caused when oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain is blocked by a clot in a blood vessel, causing brain cells to die. This type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke. Treatment with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) — a drug used to dissolve blood clots — can usually be administered within 4.5 hours of a stroke. Beyond 4.5 hours, tPA treatment is not an option.
For strokes where the clot is located in a large blood vessel, the stroke care team may choose to remove the clot with a special device that is threaded into the blood vessel to extract the clot. With the help of innovative RAPID® brain imaging software, such endovascular procedures may be used within 24 hours of the stroke occurring (for patients that meet specific criteria).
Know the signs
Regardless of the treatment window, the first step to treating stroke is to quickly recognize the signs and symptoms, and immediately call 911 to receive emergency medical care.
When remembering stroke signs and symptoms, think BE FAST:
B = Balance — Assess whether the person has a loss of balance. Are they unable to walk due to imbalance?
E = Eyes — Ask about the person’s eyesight. Do they have loss of vision or double vision?
F = Face drooping — Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
A = Arm weakness — Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech difficulty — Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred?
T = Time to call 911 — If the person shows any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Stroke treatment can begin in the ambulance.
Watch the video above to learn more about the signs of stroke and the importance of getting help fast.