Most children grow up seeing superheroes on television and in the movies. But what if we could train kids to be heroes in real life?
That’s exactly what happened when the American Heart Association teamed up with the Atlantic Cape Cumberland YMCA this summer to teach local campers how to recognize a stroke and get help FAST.
“Stroke is often a scary topic, especially for kids,” stated Graceanne Schwegel, Sr. Program Director of School Age Childcare and Camp, Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA. “By working with the American Heart Association to teach kids about stroke, we are hoping to empower them to act if they should ever unfortunately encounter an emergency.”
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die. About 2 million brain cells die per minute during a stroke emergency. When it comes to stroke, time is brain.
In July, Association volunteers and staff trained over 100 YMCA campers about stroke symptoms, empowering kids to act in the face of an emergency.
For a majority of stroke cases, someone other than the patient makes the decision to seek treatment. That’s why it’s so important to train bystanders on how to recognize a stroke and get help as soon as possible.
The good news is, stroke is largely treatable if a patient receives help fast. The acronym F.A.S.T. is used to help recognize the most common stroke symptoms:
- F – face drooping
- A – arm weakness
- S – speech difficulty
- T – time to call 9-1-1
“The more education members of the community have around recognizing the signs of a stroke, the faster they can get to specialized centers to receive time-sensitive stroke care,” stated Mandy Binning, MD, member of the South-Central NJ American Heart Association and American Stroke Association Regional Board of Directors and Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosurgery at Drexel University College of Medicine. “The acronym F.A.S.T. is easy to learn and it shows the emphasis on recognizing symptoms and calling 9-1-1 immediately.”
According to the Association, recognition of the F.A.S.T. acronym has steadily increased from 24% to 47% awareness since 2013. This means 47% are at least somewhat familiar with F.A.S.T.
The program consisted of a 40-minute lesson for groups of campers. The children, ages 6 to 11, were read a book about stroke and were shown an American Heart Association music video teaching F.A.S.T. During the lesson, students were also encouraged to get up and dance to the song, showing the value of physical activity in preventing strokes.
In fact, according the Association, moderate to vigorous physical activity may reduce stroke risk by 25%. In addition, approximately 80% of first strokes can be prevented by following simple lifestyle modifications: don’t smoke, be physically active, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and control cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
To learn more about how you can be a stroke hero and for tips on living a healthy lifestyle, visit stroke.org.