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May is Stroke Awareness Month

Hospital news | Wednesday, May 11, 2016

“The month of May has arrived! In addition to the long desired warm, spring weather, May is Stroke Awareness Month,” announces Dr. Owen Vincent, Family Medicine, board-certified physician at Crossing Rivers Health Clinic. A stroke is a medical condition of decreased oxygen to the brain, usually due to a blood clot or clots in the arteries in and around the brain. Strokes also may be known as cerebral vascular accidents (CVAs), and can be caught early by using the FAST acronym.”

The FAST acronym helps individuals remember what to do if they suspect someone has experienced a stroke.

  • F - Face drooping, with one side of the face looking lower than the other- ask the person to smile. An uneven, drooping smile is a stroke risk finding.
  • A - Arm weakness, with one side weaker than the other- ask the person to raise both arms. An inability to raise one of their arms is a stroke risk finding.
  • S - Speech difficulty, with the person suddenly unable to speak or understand your speech– ask the person to repeat a simple phrase, such as, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Difficulty understanding or repeating that phrase is a stroke risk finding.
  • T - Time to call 911. Once these symptoms are noticed, even if they seem to go away, call 911 immediately to report concern for a stroke. Time is critical in successful stroke treatment to maximize outcomes.

Dr. Vincent urges, “Remember to respond to strokes FAST! In addition to identifying stroke symptoms to help someone, stroke prevention is the important first series of steps we can all take to minimize our stroke risk. If you have a family member who had a stroke before age 65, you are three times more likely to have a stroke in your lifetime than someone without that family history. It’s important to have open conversations about stroke history and what to do if a stroke occurs. Communication can help save the lives of your friends and family members.”

Dr. Vincent adds, “According to the American Heart Association, the number one risk for stroke is uncontrolled high blood pressure. A good, starting goal for blood pressures is less than 140/90. If your blood pressure is higher than this, contact your primary care provider for a blood pressure check-up and ask about your stroke risk. If you’re already taking blood pressure medication and your blood pressure is higher than these numbers, definitely see your primary care provider soon to discuss lifestyle choices and medication adjustments. Diets low in fats (minimize animal-based foods), high in complex carbohydrates (maximize whole, unprocessed plant-based foods), with moderate exercise (regular walking 20-30 minutes a day), are great choices to support healthy circulation and normal blood pressures without medication. I encourage individuals to contact their primary care clinic for more information on healthy blood pressure.”

“Strokes are far too common a cause of death and disability in society today, and they can be reduced,” commented Dr. Vincent. The American Stroke Association notes 80% of all strokes are entirely preventable, and the people most likely to help save someone suffering from a stroke are those friends and family with them in the moment. Individuals are encouraged to take time this month to talk with those closest to them about stroke risks, the FAST acronym for how to tell when someone might be having a stroke, and life choices that can change strokes from common occurrences to rare events.

Dr. Owen Vincent and his colleagues at Crossing Rivers Health Clinics offer a number of services beneficial to the region, including comprehensive family care, as well as obstetrical services and women’s health services. To schedule an appointment with one of the providers at Crossing Rivers Health Clinic, call 608-357-2500. Learn more about the clinic by visiting crclinic.org.