When a stroke strikes, blood flow to part of your brain is interrupted. If the blood flow is not restored quickly, brain cells die. How you are affected depends on which part of your body that particular portion of your brain ("the master computer") controls.
For example, the left side of your brain controls things like speech and understanding. If a stroke kills brain cells here, you may have problems talking, reading or writing.
How much loss a stroke causes is directly related to how many brain cells it kills, and that depends on how much time passes between the first minute that symptoms appear and the minute that medical treatment begins. That's why every minute counts.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS):
- About 2 million brain cells die in the first minute.
- A pea-size area of the brain dies for every 12 minutes without treatment.
If a stroke is not recognized and treated within the first few critical hours, permanent brain damage or death can occur. That's why it's called a brain attack.
What to Do: A stroke often strikes without warning to anyone at any age. Many people are unsure how to recognize what is happening or know what to do. If someone experiences a sudden change in normal function, suspect a stroke. You can do a simple, three-step test to check the face, arm, and speech. If any of these are abnormal, call 911 right away to have the person taken immediately to a designated stroke center.
Here's an easy way to remember: If you think someone may be having a stroke, act FAST!
|| Look for facial numbness or weakness, especially on one side.
||Look for arm numbness or weakness, especially on one side.
||Check for slurred speech, or difficulty speaking or understanding.
|| Don't delay! Call 911 immediately, because "Time is Brain."
Who's at Risk: According to the National Stroke Association:
- Men have more strokes than women. However, more women die from stroke than men.
- Twice as many women die from stroke than from breast cancer.
- African Americans are twice as likely as Caucasians to die from stroke.
- Although stroke is less common in children, the time it takes to recognize a stroke and get them to the hospital is nearly three times greater for children than for adults.
Also, anyone who has already had a stroke has an elevated risk for another. Secondary stroke prevention is a topic you should discuss with your health care provider to ensure you are doing all you can to prevent a new stroke.
How Southwest Can Help: When a stroke strikes, it's not an automatic death sentence. Southwest's Comprehensive Stroke Center provides immediate treatment, from the first critical minutes when the ambulance arrives, through inpatient hospitalization and rehabilitation.
Southwest's Firstenburg Tower houses the area's only bi-plane labs. These top-notch technology suites use three-dimensional "slice" images, which allow physicians to see brain abnormalities in depth, even those that were not visible with older technology. The precise images ensure a more accurate diagnosis, allowing treatment to start earlier.
"We are proud to offer to the community the only full-service, certified stroke center that can meet all the needs of patients at risk or who have had a stroke," said Robert S. Djergaian, MD, administrative director of Southwest's Stroke Program and physician director of Rehabilitation Services.
Southwest's Stroke Inpatient Unit staff includes physicians, nurses, therapists, dietitians, mental health specialists, and many other experts who work together to help stroke patients. They are specially trained to reduce the complications of strokes, educate patients and families, and provide the latest care in stroke management, including:
- Rehabilitation treatment for physical and functional needs, such as walking and swallowing
- Lifestyle changes and nutrition
- Screening for depression
To help ensure ongoing recovery at home, before discharging stroke patients, Southwest's staff works with the patients and their families to identify unique needs and find ways to meet them. This level of care has received recognition by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).
In 2006 Southwest earned a three-year accreditation from CARF International for inpatient rehabilitation and specialty stroke care programs. Recognition particularly centered on the team's sensitivity to stroke patients' personal and environmental safety, including one-on-one approaches to treatment and rehabilitation.
In addition, Southwest's Comprehensive Stroke Center is one of only six programs in Washington State that has received full certification by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). JCAHO accreditation recognizes centers that make exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke care. Click here for more information about Southwest's award-winning Comprehensive Stroke Center,.