The American Stroke Association is urging people to take steps to prevent strokes – in some cases a second attack.
It’s part of the organization’s efforts during American Stroke Month.
Despite social distancing efforts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many ways you can lower your risk of stroke.
“Time is crucial and the longer you wait, the more damage occurs to your brain cells,” said Dr. Rajiv Padmanabhan of the department of neurology at Baystate Medical Center.
Know the Signs
It’s important to catch a stroke early, considering two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke.
“If you or someone you know may be having a stroke, it’s important to recognize the signs by remembering the acronym B. E. F.A.S.T," says Padmanabhan.
Look for these signs:
- Balance – Abnormal or loss
- Eye – Vision loss or double vision
- Face – Smile. Does one side of the face droop?
- Arms – Hold both arms up evenly. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech – Repeat a simple sentence. Are the words slurred or mixed up?
- Time – If you or someone else exhibits any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
Not every stroke is the same. Look for these other stroke symptoms as well:
- Sudden weakness in the legs or on one side of the body
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Get treated for stroke sooner rather than later
Are hospitals safe or is it too risky?
Some people are choosing not to seek medical care even in an emergency for fear of coronavirus. At several hospitals around the country, admissions for a particular type of heart attack dropped 38% after March 1, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Dr. Aaron Kugelmass, vice president and medical director, Heart & Vascular Services, and Division Chief of Cardiology for Baystate Health, says this could be a life threatening mistake.
He says you’re more likely to make a successful recovery if you’re treated within an hour.
The longer you wait, the higher your risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death.
The drug t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) is more effective if the treatment is started within three hours of the start of the stroke. Results are even better within the first 90 minutes.
Understand the safety precautions at our Emergency Departments
There are five “Designated Stroke Centers” in Western Massachusetts:
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health gives these designations to hospitals where it has completed a detailed site survey. These Baystate Health locations have the medical expertise, diagnostic equipment and treatment procedures available around-the-clock to treat strokes.
The team wears Personal Protective Equipment
The stroke service team is taken precautions during the pandemic to keep patients safe.
The neurologists, radiologists, nurses, neurosurgeons, and other team members get their temperatures checked at the start of each shift. At the entrance of each hospital, everyone is screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
The team is required to wear personal protective equipment. Some may wear more protection than others at different times with a patient, depending on the safety needs.
The hospitals are deep cleaned
In the Emergency Department, there are separate pods for patients who are being treated for COVID-19 or have symptoms. If you go in to be treated for stroke, you won’t be sitting in a waiting room with someone who’s being treated for the virus.
Even so, Senior Director of Hospitality Steve Boyle says the environmental services team has increased the frequency of cleaning in public areas like the ED. They’re cleaning everything from door knobs to elevator buttons.
While the team has always used cleaning practices that meet CDC guidelines, they’re now giving exam rooms extra cleaning between visitors.
Take preventive measures
You can be pro-active in stopping another stroke.
Speak with your doctor to come up with a comprehensive plan, including:
- Eating healthy: You can eat healthy, even while self-isolating. Learn more about what healthy snacks you should pack your pantry with.
- Get exercise: There are still ways to get moving despite gyms and fitness centers being closed. You can stream yoga and fitness classes online or take a run around your neighborhood.
- Lose Weight: Find tips for starting your own walking routine to encourage weight loss
- Lower high blood pressure: Dr. Quinn Pack shares what he does to lower his blood pressure.
- Manage your cholesterol levels: Know the different types of cholesterol.
- Manage your blood glucose (sugar): The American Stroke Association explains how to do this, especially for those with diabetes.
Check out The American Stroke Association’s four-part series about COVID-19 and its potential impact on stroke survivors and their families.
Find out more about stroke treatments at Baystate Health.