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Spot the Signs of Stroke

Which of the following is a sign of stroke?
Facial drooping.
Arm weakness.
Slurred speech.
The answer? All of the above. And if you see someone with the symptoms of a stroke, it’s important to act quickly.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain can’t get the oxygen it needs and starts to die. If it lasts for a long time, there can be permanent damage.

Risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol use and atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat.

South Carolina has a high rate of stroke. In fact, it’s the fourth leading cause of death in the state. Statistics show that more than 20,000 people suffer a stroke in South Carolina each year, and more than 2,500 people die from a stroke.

“South Carolina is in what’s known as the ‘Stroke Belt’,” said Douglas Sinclair, DO, a neurologist with Southeastern Neurology and Memory Clinic, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. “Our state has a bad combination of factors including smoking, poor diet, and not seeking routine medical care that makes us have a higher prevalence of stroke than the rest of the country. Here in the South, we deep fry pickles.”

When it comes to stroke, experts say to think “F-A-S-T” to look for symptoms and respond.
F: Facial drooping
A: Arm weakness
S: Slurred speech
T: Time to call 9-1-1

A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate care. If someone shows stroke symptoms, call 9-1-1 and get them to a hospital right away. Also note the last time the person did not have any stroke symptoms. Doctors may treat the patient with a drug called tPA that busts clots. If given in the first three hours after the start of stroke symptoms, tPA has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of stroke and lessen the chance of permanent disability.

Douglas Sinclair, DO

“Stroke patients often do not realize they’ve had a stroke and resist the idea of going to the Emergency department,” Dr. Sinclair said. “Unlike heart attacks, the typical stroke causes no pain and patients often want to go to bed or take a nap. If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, call 9-1-1.”

Ways to lower stroke risk include quitting smoking, talking to your doctor about treating high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and following a healthy diet such as the DASH or Mediterranean diet.

A stroke can happen at any age. While most cases of stroke are in patients older than 65, a third of all strokes in the United States occur in patients younger than that. Stroke can also run in families.

Lexington Medical Center is a certified Primary Stroke Center, which recognizes that the hospital follows the best practices for stroke care. It has also received a “Gold Plus” Quality Achievement Award for stroke care from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s Get with the Guidelines Stroke program and qualified for the Target: Stroke Honor Roll.

For more information about stroke care at Lexington Medical Center, visit LexMed.com/Stroke.