May is Stroke Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to educate yourself and your loved ones about stroke prevention, diagnosis and treatment. “Stroke is an important topic because it can be catastrophic and it can affect just about anyone,” says UVA cardiologist and Club Red clinical ambassador Brandy Patterson, MD.
Below, Dr. Patterson answers some of our questions about stroke:
Who is at greatest risk for stroke?
You’re more likely to experience a stroke later in life, but stroke is actually becoming more common among those ages 35 to 44. This is because of the rise in stroke risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Other risk factors include physical inactivity, smoking and a family history of stroke.
If you want to find out if you are at risk for stroke, try the online risk assessment tool found at uvahealth.com/stroke-risk. This will help estimate your risk based on your personal risk factors.
How do you know if you or someone you love is having a stroke?
It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of stroke and know how to respond. A key word to remember is FAST:
F stands for Face Drooping
A is Arm Weakness
S is Speech Difficulty; and
T is Time to Call 911
Once a patient arrives at the hospital, the medical team will rule out other conditions that may mimic a stroke and will do a non-contrast CT scan to confirm a stroke diagnosis and determine the best treatment.
Is it true that they’ve expanded the window for stroke treatment?
For some patients, yes. Recent research shows that we have more time than previously thought to perform mechanical endovascular thrombectomy or clot retrieval for select patients with acute stroke. Instead of 6 hours, we may extend that treatment window to 24 hours for those patients who meet specific criteria. Just how many patients will benefit from this expanded window, however, is still unknown.
What are the other treatment options for stroke?
The gold standard for stroke treatment is the drug tPA or tissue plasminogen activator, which is administered to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain. The most important takeaway is that when it comes to stroke, time equals brain. The quicker someone receives this treatment, the less damage is done to the brain.