Stroke : "The Proverbial Monster Under the Bed"

Most people know the signs of a heart attack – chest and upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea and lightheadedness. We’ve heard about it in public service announcements and in those CPR lessons back in high school. We might even talk about it at the dinner table. But what about signs of a brain attack, or stroke? What should we do when someone suffers one?

Sarah Blizzard, a registered nurse at Orlando Regional Medical Center, calls stroke: “The proverbial monster under the bed” because no one likes to talk about it.

“People love talking about trauma and heart attacks,” Blizzard said, “but not strokes.”

But stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability and the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer. About 795,000 Americans each year suffer a stroke. That means, on average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds.

In addition, most women aren’t aware they’re more at risk for strokes than for breast cancer.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. As a part of the Healthy Woman Education Series at WMFE, Blizzard went over the basics of stroke, including prevention, signs and treatment.

“Stroke is all about time,” Blizzard said. “Strokes happen fast, but you have to be faster.”

Here are the five major signs of stroke, according to the American Stroke Association :

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding.
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance and coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.

If you see people experiencing these symptoms, Blizzard says to act F.A.S.T. – an acronym for a simple test that you can do to check for strokes.

Face – Ask them to smile. Does one side drop? Arms – Ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Speech – Say a simple sentence and have them repeat it back to you. Is the speech slurred or strange? Time – If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately. []