By Susan Moore, BSN, RN, nursing director, Stroke Program at Kent Hospital, and Arshad Iqbal, MD, medical director, Stroke Program at Kent Hospital

Stroke is a brain injury that occurs when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted. This can happen when either a blood clot blocks one of the vital blood vessels in the brain (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures (hemorrhagic stroke). Without oxygen and nutrients from blood, brain tissue starts to die rapidly, resulting in sudden loss of function. Left undiagnosed or untreated, it can result in serious and debilitating injury or loss of life.

When someone has a stroke, almost two million brain cells die every minute until blood flow is restored. It is important to recognize the symptoms of stroke.

Symptoms of a stroke include sudden onset of:

  • Numbness or weakness of your body or face especially on one side.
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Blurred or reduced vision.
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.

The American Stroke Association (ASA) uses B.E.F.A.S.T. as an easy way to remember and identify the most common symptoms of a stroke. Remember:

   Balance: Watch for sudden loss of balance.

   Eyes: Check for sudden vision loss or double vision.

   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 their speech slurred or words not making sense?

   Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. Even more daunting, every four minutes, someone dies of stroke.

While these statistics are intimidating, there are several actions you can take to prevent or lessen your risk of stroke. These include making healthy living choices and controlling any health conditions you may have.

Here is a list of several actions you can take to lessen your risk of stroke:

  • Learn your risk factors and become educated on ways to reduce your risk.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week and spend less time sitting. This will help to manage your weight and keep your heart and mind healthy.
  • Take control of your cholesterol; large amounts can clog arteries. Eat a well-balanced, low fat, and low carbohydrate diet.
  • Manage your blood pressure and know your numbers. High blood pressure (hypertension) is the leading cause of stroke. The recommendation is 120/80.
  • If you are a diabetic, control your blood sugar.
  • See your primary care provider regularly. They will help to manage and monitor your individual risk factors. If you do not have a primary care provider, you should get one.

Kent Hospital offers a 24/7 accredited acute stroke treatment program, providing a team-centered, multi-disciplinary approach to quality care based on the American Stroke Association clinical practice guidelines which includes coordinated timely interventions, treatments, and rehabilitation. The Kent Hospital Stroke Specialty Rehabilitation unit, which is approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), provides acute inpatient rehabilitation therapy as well as outpatient rehabilitation. If you are searching for additional resources, information on rehabilitation services and other programs can be found online at kentri.org/services/stroke.