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Simple stroke facts that can save your life

The mission of Mercy Health has remained steadfast since the Sisters of the Humility of Mary began providing health care services more than 100 years ago. Mercy Health’s core values of compassion, excellence, human dignity, justice, sacredness of life and service are upheld at all of our care locations, blending pioneering technology and innovative equipment to provide the best care possible.

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What would you do if a loved one experienced sudden numbness and weakness in the left side of their face?

If you would call 911 or rush them to the emergency room, congratulations, you got the answer right. Numbness and weakness are common signs of stroke, the No. 3 cause of death among Americans and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

Stroke occurs when the brain’s blood supply is blocked by a blood clot or damaged vessel. Without a constant supply of oxygen from the bloodstream, brain cells struggle to remain active and are lost at a rate of approximately 1.9 million per minute.

Clot-busting drugs called tissue plasminogen activators (tPAs) can halt many strokes in progress before extensive and irreversible brain damage occurs. Unfortunately, people experiencing a stroke often do not recognize what is happening and delay medical treatment. In fact, only 3 to 5 percent of stroke patients reach the hospital in time to benefit from tPA therapy, according to the American Stroke Association.

May was National Stroke Awareness month, but it is something we must never forget or just remind ourselves during one month. Take a moment to review these lifesaving facts on stroke and share them with those you love.

First, remember that the best time to treat a stroke is before it occurs. Your family physician can help control or treat risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, physical inactivity, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse and disorders of the heart, arteries and blood.

Some risk factors cannot be treated, though it is helpful to be aware of them. The risk of stroke increases with age, approximately doubling for each decade of life after 55. Women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and people with a personal or family history of stroke are also at greater risk.

In addition to knowing your personal risk, it is important to learn the signs of a stroke so you can take immediate action in an emergency.

To recognize the signs of stroke, use the acronym FAST:

Face. Ask the person to smile. If the person is experiencing a stroke, one side of the mouth may droop.

Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Stroke will often cause one arm to drift downward.

Speech. Ask the person to repeat a sentence. Stroke may cause speech to be slurred.

Time. If you see signs of a possible stroke, immediately call 911 or take the person to the emergency room.

If stroke symptoms disappear suddenly, it is still important to seek emergency care. The person could be experiencing a transient ischemic attack, also called a “mini stroke,” caused by a temporary blockage to a blood vessel. About 15 percent of strokes are preceded by a TIA, and a person with a history of TIA is 10 times more likely to have a stroke than others of the same age and sex.

Mercy also offers a full continuum of care for people who have experienced a stroke. From the emergency department through rehabilitation, every stage of care addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of recovery.

To learn more about stroke care at Mercy visit www.mercy.com or to make an appointment with a physician, call 855-884-7150.

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