• October 22, 2019

CATES: Be fast and dizzy plus - Odessa American: Opinions

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CATES: Be fast and dizzy plus

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Posted: Monday, September 16, 2019 12:30 am

I think every healthcare provider has something that they are really passionate about, for me that has always been all things cardiovascular—which is mostly heart related things, but also includes strokes.  The stroke part of cardiovascular disease became an even bigger passion for me in 2005, because my Father-in-Law suffered a series of devastating strokes that first took his independence and then took his life. I learned firsthand how life changing a stroke can be from my Father-in-Law. 

There is good news with stroke. In the decade plus since my Father-in-Law had his strokes, we have gotten much better at recognizing and treating strokes. In addition, there are several things that you can do to decrease your risk for stroke. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has great tips for stroke prevention on their website, www.stroke.org. Stroke prevention is also a great conversation to have with your primary healthcare provider. Treatment, in particular, has gotten much better since my Father-in-Law had his strokes. The most important thing with treatment however, is early recognition. Strokes are very treatable for most people, if a person seeks treatment within 3 hours of onset of symptoms. After 3 hours, strokes become much more difficult to treat, which means the damage the stroke is causing is much more likely to be permanent.

That 3 hour treatment window makes it important that everyone know how to recognize a stroke and know what to do when you see stroke symptoms in yourself or someone you love. For years, the acronym healthcare providers have been teaching to recognize strokes is FAST. But, the American Heart Association has recently changed the acronym to BE FAST. They did that because strokes in the posterior brain, the back part of the brain, can be missed when people just use the FAST acronym. BE FAST stands for: B—Balance—suddenly losing the sense of balance, E—Eyes—sudden difficulty seeing, F—Face, sudden drooping of the face on one side, A—Arms, sudden difficulty moving or holding up one arm, S—Speech, sudden trouble talking or words suddenly not making sense, T-Time, if you see any of these things, it is time to call 911.  That last part is so important—please do not wait to see if symptoms go away, wait to see your primary healthcare provider, or get into a car and drive. Our Emergency Medical Providers can alert hospitals of your condition before you arrive, which will greatly speed up your time to treatment. With strokes, healthcare providers have a saying: Time is Brain. The faster we can get you to treatment, the better chance we have to save the portion of the brain that is being damaged by the stroke. Plus, being in car, even as the passenger is dangerous. The driver will be distracted, and our roads are already challenging with our population growth. Please, please call 911 if you suspect a stroke!

I recently attended some stroke education that added one more thing to watch for: Dizzy plus. With some strokes the most pronounced symptoms is sudden dizziness. But dizziness alone can be caused by many things, not just strokes. The dizziness with strokes, however, is usually accompanied by something else, which is why it is called Dizzy plus. If you or someone you love is having sudden dizziness with sudden double vision, sudden slurred speech or words not making sense, sudden difficulty swallowing, or sudden difficulty walking, they could be having a stroke, so again call 911.

Once the person who is having symptoms arrives at the hospital, they will be seen by hospital staff and very quickly taken for a CAT scan of the head, an IV will be started and blood will be drawn for labs. Once the type of stroke is determined, and depending on the individual needs and history of the patient, treatment options will be decided on by the ED doctor, a neurologist and the patient and/or patient’s designee if the patient cannot make decisions. All of this will happen very quickly, usually within 30-45 minutes of arrival to the hospital—again, because time is so important.

Please remember BE FAST and Dizzy Plus. Teach them to everyone you know. If you see those symptoms, don’t wait, call 911.  Every minute counts with a stroke.

Odessa, TX

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