Learn signs to look for during Stroke Awareness Month

By Gary Brode | gbrode@wcia.com

Published 05/12 2014 11:46AM

Updated 05/12 2014 11:52AM

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- Almost 800,000 strokes will happen this year and about 133,000 people will die as a result. May is Stroke Awareness Month with the goal to try to lower that number. It can start as simple as a sharp pain in the arm or slurring of speech, but it can quickly turn serious.

"All the way from not being able to talk at all, they can look at you and not be able to speak, not be able to function as far as moving their extremities."

A stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America.

"Speech difficulty, visual loss, might have a sudden severe headache, lose some function of some parts of their body."

It cuts off blood flow and oxygen to the brain and can happen subtly.

"It doesn't have to be this full-blown, the whole side of the body's gone."

It's most common in older people with high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure. But, Mike Swindle says it can happen much earlier, so doctors want you to be aware of the signs. They commonly refer to the word FAST as a reminder of how quickly a stroke can happen.

"Face, arms, speech and time. Drooping of the face or the eyelid, might not close all the way or the tongue might be a little thick. You might have some weakness in the arms. Your speech may be unclear."

The final word is time and it's of the essence when a stroke happens.

"The quicker you get here, the more likely we are to do something about it. Stroke is pretty time-sensitive. You have somewhere between three and four-and-a-half hours to do some acute things to stop it and reverse the stroke."

"Our goal is to be in the ambulance, loaded up and on our way to the hospital in twelve minutes or less."

There are more than 7-million stroke survivors. By knowing the signs, you could be one of them.

"Anytime we can get someone here and potentially get life-saving treatment, it's very rewarding.”

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