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National Stroke Month Reminds to Act “FAST”, Even During a Pandemic

May 21, 2021

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and Dr. Victor Mwansa, an interventional cardiologist at Heartland Regional Medical Center, believes it’s the perfect time for us to familiarize ourselves with the signs of a stroke. “Because a stroke occurs when a clot or ruptured vessel obstructs blood flow to the brain, any delay in care can lead to serious complications or even death,” Mwansa said.

As stroke rates rise among younger adults, nearly 1 in 3 don’t know the symptoms, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. With rapid access to a medical intervention being one of the most important ways to survive a stroke, we must educate all ages about recognizing these critical signs.

Dr. Mwansa advises that the FAST campaign is a simple way to remember the signs of stroke.

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

It is critically important to seek emergency help when experiencing signs of a stroke. However, recent research published in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery found that stroke patients delayed treatment for two hours amid concerns about COVID-19. Dr. Mwansa says a needless delay could have devastating consequences. “Time lost is brain lost. At Heartland Regional, we follow strict safety guidelines and take every precaution to protect patients from COVID-19. Our hospital is also an Emergent Stroke Ready Hospital, which means we have achieved national recognition for the stroke care we deliver,” Mwansa said.

The National Institutes of Health reports that strokes are a leading cause of death and serious disability, with more than 800,000 strokes happening each year in the U.S. “As a physician specializing in cardiology, I’m often asked by patients how to avoid a stroke altogether,” said Mwansa.

Here are ways you can act today to lower your risk:

  1. Know your blood pressure. According to the American Stroke Association, nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure — and it’s the leading cause of stroke.
  2. Lower your cholesterol. Large amounts can build up in blood vessels due to lifestyle or family history, contributing to blood clots.
  3. Know your blood sugar, especially if you have diabetes or are prediabetic.
  4. Move more, sit less. Exercise, even 25 minutes of brisk walking a day, can lower your risk.
  5. Mind your food. Load up on fruits and vegetables but turn down the dial on saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium.
  6. Don’t smoke or vape. Nicotine and carbon monoxide wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. The risk of stroke more than doubles for African Americans who smoke compared to their nonsmoking peers, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
  7. Don’t delay your care. Talk with your doctor about making sure your preventive screenings and check-ups are on track. And remind your loved ones to stay on top of their health and well visits.