May is stroke awareness month – the perfect time to learn
how you can best protect yourself from this common, but preventable disease.
Dr. Amy Guzik, stroke director at Lexington Medical Center,
said that being aware of your personal risk factors for stroke can be
“A stroke can happen quickly and change your life
instantly,” she said. “Being educated about the disease and knowing what to
look for and how to respond can lower your risk and even save your life.”
A stroke happens when blood clotting or bleeding prevents
blood flow to the brain and causes cognitive, vision, motor (weakness) and speech
deficits that can permanently affect health and quality of life. A stroke can
also cause numbness and balance difficulties. According to the American Stroke
Association, someone in the United States suffers a stroke every 40 seconds,
and someone dies of stroke every four minutes.
“Everyone knows that a heart attack comes with pain, but
since a stroke doesn’t hurt, the warning signs are often overlooked,” said Dr.
Guzik. “Many people shake off signs of stroke, thinking they slept funny the
night before or are having a bad day, but it’s important to take the signs
seriously and get to the hospital as soon as possible.”
Dr. Guzik said remembering the acronym BE-FAST (Balance, Eyes, Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech abnormalities, Time to call
911) can help spot warning signs of stroke. Facial changes or drooping, leg or
arm weakness, changes in speech like slurring or difficulty forming words, or
having dizziness, imbalance or vision changes, all indicate a stroke.
She also said it is important to know the major stroke risk
- High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher),
the leading cause of stroke
- Being overweight
- Poor diet
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder
that causes irregular heart beat)
- Migraine with aura (a funny feeling before
- Sleep apnea (snoring at night or waking up
gasping for breath)
If you or a loved one are experiencing any warning signs of
a stroke, please call 911 immediately or visit the Emergency Department at
Lexington Medical Center. Getting medical help immediately is critical, as most
treatments are needed within three to four hours after symptoms start.