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Home Features B.E.F.A.S.T.: Know the warning signs of stroke

B.E.F.A.S.T.: Know the warning signs of stroke

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke, accounting for approximately 800,000 strokes per year and the fifth leading cause of death. While strokes are commonly associated with individuals over the age of 65, anyone can be affected. According to Dr. Brian Wiseman, medical director of The University of Tennessee Medical Center’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, knowing the risks and signs of a stroke are key to prevention.

“Strokes occur when blood flow is blocked from the brain,” said Wiseman. “During a stroke, an individual can lose approximately two million brain cells per minute.”

As recent news reports have described situations where concerns about COVID-19 resulted in delays in individuals seeking medical care, Wiseman explains that a stroke is an emergency and that stroke symptoms should prompt an immediate call to 911 to activate emergency medical services.

“Our hospital and our team members have worked hard to implement measures to protect patients from exposure to COVID-19,” said Wiseman. “We are prepared to treat stroke even in the middle of a global pandemic.”

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Wiseman explains that up to 90 percent of first-time strokes can be prevented as most risk factors associated with strokes can be controlled, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle and smoking.

“Lowering your blood pressure, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy diet will decrease your risk of a stroke,” said Wiseman. “Limiting alcohol and quitting smoking will also decrease the risk of having a stroke.”

Wiseman says certain risks are uncontrollable. Women are more likely to have a stroke than men and strokes become more common after the age of 65. Having a family history of high blood pressure also increases the risk of having a stroke and the likelihood of a second stroke doubles after the first.

“There are several warning signs for a stroke,” said Wiseman. “When a stroke happens seconds and minutes matter that is why you need to ‘B.E.F.A.S.T.’, a common acronym for the signs of a stroke, which include:

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• B – Balance: “An individual may suddenly experience dizziness or trouble with balance or coordination.”

• E – Eyes: “This includes sudden blurred or double vision or experiencing sudden trouble seeing out of one or both eyes.”

• F – Face Drooping: “Typically, only one side of the face will be paralyzed or feel numb. Ask if the affected person can smile and look to see if his/her mouth is crooked or uneven.”

• A – Arm weakness: “Ask the individual if he/she can lift both of their arms. Often one arm will be paralyzed or numb and they will be too weak to lift it.”

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• S – Speech: “A stroke may cause confusion, slurred words or trouble speaking. Ask the individual to repeat a simple sentence such as, ‘The grass is green,’ back to you.”

• T – Time: “It is important to call 9-1-1 if the individual has any of these symptoms. The affected person goes to the ER immediately, even if the symptoms subside.”

“Strokes can be severely debilitating and are the leading cause of long-term disability,” said Wiseman. “Additionally, recovery time depends on the individual. Recovery could take days, weeks, months, or even years, and it may be difficult to gauge the severity of the stroke until that period of recovery. However, knowing the warning signs, understanding the risk factors, and ability to ‘B.E.F.A.S.T.’, are key to stroke prevention and survival.”

For reliable information on taking care of your health or a loved one’s health, contact UTMC’s Health Information Center at 865.305.9525 or online at www.utmedicalcenter.org/hic. Staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists, the Health Information Center offers an extensive health library, digital and printed resources, walk-in assistance, and help with the research on specific health conditions – all free of charge and available to the public.

For Scott Countians, the nearest emergency room is Big South Fork Medical Center in Oneida. If you are experiencing cardiac symptoms that could be a heart attack or stroke, do not delay. Call 911. 

Don’t delay warning signs, hospital warns

Tennova Healthcare is urging East Tennesseans to seek emergency care when needed — without delay. If you experience a medical emergency, such as stroke symptoms or chest pain that may be a heart attack, a timely response will support the best possible outcome.

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Even with a limited number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the region, Tennova hospitals have implemented precautions to protect patients and staff, including screening all patients for symptoms and risk factors, requiring all visitors and staff to wear face coverings, and encouraging proper social distancing. Cleaning and disinfection are emphasized in caregiving areas and throughout all Tennova facilities.

Tennova’s network of hospitals in East Tennessee that offer fast, quality emergency care include: Jefferson Memorial Hospital, LaFollette Medical Center, Newport Medical Center, North Knoxville Medical Center and Turkey Creek Medical Center. The hospitals’ accredited Stroke Centers meet strict national standards that support better outcomes for stroke care, treatment and rehabilitation. Additionally, the accredited Chest Pain Centers at North Knoxville Medical Center, Turkey Creek Medical Center and Jefferson Memorial Hospital are among the first in the region and are designated to improve patient care and safety by decreasing the time to treatment for heart attack.

Tennova is supporting the latest campaign by the American Heart Association (AHA): Be Certain in Uncertain Times. The AHA is working to remind everyone that heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrests don’t stop for Covid-19.

Heart attack signs & symptoms

• Chest discomfort

• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body

• Shortness of breath

• Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

• Women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain. Some women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

Remember to act fast during stroke

• Face drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

• Arm weakness – Is one arm weak or numb?

• Speech difficulty – Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand?

• Time to call 911 – If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.

Cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. Within seconds, a person becomes unresponsive, is not breathing or is only gasping. Survival depends on getting immediate CPR.

Heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest symptoms are always urgent. Don’t hesitate to call 911. Emergency medicine teams know what to do to protect and care for you.

For Scott Countians, the nearest emergency room is Big South Fork Medical Center in Oneida. If you are experiencing cardiac symptoms that could be a heart attack or stroke, do not delay. Call 911. 

This story is the May 2020 installment of Focus On: Health, presented by Brennan’s Foot & Ankle Care, Roark’s Pharmacy and Danny’s Drugs on the second week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Focus series. A print version of this article can be found on Page 3 of the May 14, 2020 edition of the Independent Herald.
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Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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