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Stroke 101: What you need to know

Stroke strikes every 40 seconds in the United States

In March 2019, the death of actor Luke Perry at age 52 from an ischemic stroke brought to light the sobering truth that strokes do occur in younger people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in seven (14%) of patients hospitalized for ischemic stroke every year are younger adults.

Age is an important factor for all of us: CDC reports that risk for stroke increases starting at 55, and nearly doubles every decade thereafter.

Lehigh Valley Health Network provides unparalleled stroke diagnosis, treatment and prevention services.

In 2012, Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Cedar Crest was the first hospital in Pennsylvania to be certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, where you receive the highest level of stroke care. LVH–Muhlenberg, LVH–Hazleton, LVH–Schuylkill and LVH–Pocono are all certified Primary Stroke Centers, and LVH-Hecktown Oaks was recently certified as Acute Stroke Ready; all offer special procedures to rapidly diagnose and treat stroke.

Time is brain

The ultimate success of stroke care depends on one factor: time. “People need to recognize symptoms of stroke and call 911,” says neurologist and neurocritical care specialist Christopher Melinosky, MD, with LVPG Neurocritical Care. “When you call an ambulance, it triggers an alert so a stroke team is waiting at the hospital when you arrive, ready to provide immediate treatment.”

Dr. Melinosky says the mnemonic BE FAST is the most useful way to remember stroke symptoms.

“If you think you’re having a stroke, don’t take an aspirin, which is only recommended when you are having heart attack symptoms,” Dr. Melinosky says. “If you are having a hemorrhagic stroke, aspirin may actually worsen bleeding in the brain. The best thing to do is call 911 immediately.”

BE FAST Stroke Symptoms

BALANCE: Is balance or coordination suddenly impaired?

EYES: Is vision suddenly blurred or double?

FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is speech slurred or strange?

TIME: Call 911 quickly.

Types of Stroke

• Ischemic stroke: Occurs when a vessel carrying blood to the brain is blocked by a clot, causing an interruption in blood flow. Ischemic stroke accounts for about 87 percent of all strokes.

• Hemorrhagic stroke: Caused by bleeding into or around the brain; it accounts for about 15 percent of strokes but about 40 percent of stroke deaths. This type of stroke may be treated with medications that control further bleeding, and surgery is sometimes an option as well.

• Transient ischemic attack (TIA): Occurs when blood flow to the brain stops for a short time, causing stroke-like symptoms. TIA, sometimes called a “mini-stroke,” is a warning that you are in danger of having a major stroke.

If you think someone is having a stroke, call 911 immediately.

Strokes strike often in the United States. Know the signs to help someone. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO