October 29th is World Stroke Day: Vermont neurologist and survivor urge everyone to learn the FAST warning signs

October 29 is World Stroke Day. The American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all – is dedicated to saving people from stroke. Stroke is the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability.

Strokes can happen to anyone at any age. In fact, globally one in four adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime. Each year, approximately 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke. Most adults in the U.S. do not know the F.A.S.T warning signs of a stroke, and that stroke is largely treatable if you call 911 as soon as you recognize the symptoms.

“Stroke continues to be a tremendous cause of disability and death even more so in underserved and underrepresented populations. Our understanding of and ability to treat stroke has advanced rapidly and we have amazing technologies to assist us and to help patients. As powerful as new technologies are, none can match the power of prevention. It is of utmost importance that everyone knows the signs and symptoms of stroke and how to respond, as it is just as important to know how to best prevent a stroke from ever happening,” said Christopher Commichau, MD, professor of neurological sciences at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine and a neurologist at UVM Medical Center.

“At 7 years old, I had my first hemorrhagic stroke because of a malformation of arteries and veins in my brain, which completely paralyzed me on my right side. And, in 7th grade, I experienced my second hemorrhagic stroke. I knew the signs, so I got help fast,” said Jamie Heath, 21-year-old stroke survivor from Barre.

Recognizing the stroke warning signs and calling 911 immediately may make the difference between a strong recovery or long-term disability, survival, or death.

Learn how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T.:

  • Face Dropping – Does one side off the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”
  • Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

According to the Association, a large majority of strokes can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes such as moving more, eating smart and managing your blood pressure. Some people have a higher stroke risk, like stroke survivors and people who have atrial fibrillation (AFib), but a stroke can happen to anyone at any point in their lifetime. Most strokes caused by AFib could have been prevented with effective treatment, but only about half of AFib patients receive proper therapy.

Knowing your numbers such as total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index can help reduce your risk, as well as knowing your family history of heart disease and stroke. The Association encourages you to learn these numbers and your family history, and then talk to your doctor about lowering your personal risk for stroke. In addition to checking your blood pressure and taking medication as prescribed, quit smoking and vaping, eat better, get healthy sleep and be active—these things not only help you avoid health problems issues later, but they also set a great example for those around you.

“The warning signs before my second stroke started with my leg going numb. I knew something was wrong, so I went to the nurse’s office, and then my arm went numb. By the time I made it to the hospital, I had no more movement in my right hand. I had to learn how to read again because I lost cognitive functions, but I am thankful for the therapy I went through because it helped me get to where I am today,” explained Heath.

For more information, visit Stroke.org/WorldStrokeDay.