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B.E. F.A.S.T. by Knowing the Warning Signs of Stroke

To raise awareness that May is National Stroke Awareness Month, we’re sharing some key messages from Dr. Heidi Young, Vinson Hall Retirement Community’s Medical Director. Dr. Young is also a member of the Capital Caring Health team, which offers primary healthcare services to VHRC’s independent living residents five days a week.

The first step in stroke awareness is knowing what a stroke is. “A stroke is damage to tissues in the central nervous system,” says Dr. Young. “Just as a heart attack comes with a certain set of symptoms and long-term damage, we can think of a stroke as a ‘brain attack.’ The most important factor in a “brain attack” is quick action. If any stroke symptoms occur, the best thing to do is call 911 immediately to get quick attention from a medical team.”  

To recognize the symptoms of a stroke, Dr. Young encourages everyone to be familiar with the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T., which is a mnemonic device to help you remember signs of a stroke and to provide guidance if you think you or someone near you has experienced a stroke. BE FAST stands for: 

B – Balance

Is the person suddenly having trouble with balance or coordination?

E – Eyes

Is the person experiencing suddenly blurred or double vision or a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes without pain? 

F – Face

Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

A – Arms

Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S – Speech

Is speech slurred? Is the individual unable to speak or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T – Time

If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Dr. Young notes that these symptoms or a combination of these symptoms are not unique to a stroke, but if they are sudden and not typical, they may indicate a stroke and require immediate medical attention. The faster a medical team evaluates you for a stroke, the better your outcome may be.

Lifestyle Factors and Prevention

According to Dr. Young, there are elements of stroke risk you can control and others you can't. You can manage lifestyle factors and some health conditions. Family history and genetics are something that you might have to contend with, but knowing stroke symptoms can make the difference between full recovery and permanent disability from stroke.

“It’s important to take charge of the things you can,” says Dr. Young. She also recommends to her patients and to anyone concerned about their stroke risk to make healthy lifestyle choices, monitor diet, exercise, and keep health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes in check. Further guidance includes:

  • Eating a balanced diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist about what foods you should be including in your diet if you have questions.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes each day to improve health, strengthen your body, and help reduce the risk of stroke and many other diseases.
  • Limit alcohol intake as drinking in excess can lead to higher blood pressure, which puts you at risk for stroke.
  • If you haven’t quit yet, now is a great time to stop smoking. Smokers have almost twice the risk for stroke than nonsmokers.

If you have any questions regarding your risk factors for stroke, or you need more information on the signs to watch out for, please contact your medical provider.

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