A Stroke Can Happen at Any Time

June 18, 2013





Jamie Haas, MD, practices at Mercy Clinic Neurology and

Sleep Medicine Washington, 901 Patients First Drive in Washington.

WASHINGTON, Mo. – Stroke – or “brain attack”– is the fourth leading cause of death in America and a leading cause of adult disability. It’s important to know the signs of stroke and learn what you can do to prevent them.

“A stroke happens when a blocked artery or broken blood vessel stops blood flow to an area of the brain, causing brain cells to die,” said Mercy Clinic neurologist Jamie Haas, MD. “Abilities that are controlled by that part of the brain such as speech, movement, memory can be affected. How much they are affected depends on the severity of the stroke.”   

A small stroke may result in weakness of an arm or leg. A more serious stroke may leave someone paralyzed on one side and unable to speak. While some people recover completely from strokes, more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of disability. The most common signs and symptoms of stroke are always sudden and include numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs, confusion or trouble speaking, trouble seeing, dizziness or loss of balance and severe headache with no known cause.

In what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or "mini-stroke," symptoms go away after a few minutes and do not cause permanent damage. People should still seek medical attention because mini-strokes can precede a more serious stroke, said Dr. Haas.

“A simple way to remember what to look for is to ‘Think FASST,’” said Dr. Haas. The Think FASST formula is as follows:

  • Face:   Ask the person to smile. Does the face look uneven?
  • Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one drift down?
  • Speech:  Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Does their speech sound strange?
  • Sight:  Is there a sudden loss of vision?
  • Time: Don’t waste time. Act fast and call 911. 

Mercy reminds everyone, “If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more signs or symptoms of stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately,” said Dr. Haas. “Hospital emergency departments like Mercy Hospital Washington can provide clot-busting drugs to stop common types of strokes, which can lead to better outcomes and recoveries.”

Because up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, people can make changes in their lives to try to lower their risks for strokes. Risk factors are very similar to people at risk for heart attacks. They include heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, heavy alcohol use, physical inactivity, obesity and family history of stroke.

“These risks can be reduced by quitting smoking, increasing activities and exercise, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and maintaining an ideal body weight,” said Dr. Haas.

Stroke facts:

  • Each year, 790,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke.
  • On average, stroke occurs every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke is the third cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.
  • Every four minutes, someone dies of a stroke.
  • Stroke kills more than 137,000 each year. 

Dr. Haas practices at Mercy Clinic Neurology and Sleep Medicine Washington, 901 Patients First Drive in Washington. For more information, call 636-390-1776.

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