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How do you react to a stroke - BE FAST

Hospital news | Friday, May 21, 2021

Watching a loved one have a stroke can be frightening. Or, if the symptoms are mild, you could be scratching your head wondering just what is going on.

“Time is essential for patients having a stroke,” said ACMC Neurologist Preetha Muthusamy, MD. “A stroke occurs when an artery in or leading to the brain is blocked or ruptures. This starves brain cells of the steady blood flow they need and if the blood vessel is blocked, it could lead to further brain damage the longer the blockage remains in place.”

When it comes to a stroke, you need to remember the acronym BE FAST. It gives you five stroke symptoms to watch for and one action step to take to quickly get the help your loved one needs.

Balance – People may experience muscle weakness or loss of muscle control in the legs. This affects that balance or ability to sit or stand.

Eyes – Sudden blurred or double vision can occur or a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Face drooping – One side of the face droops or becomes numb. Ask the person to smile and watch both sides of the face for an unequal response.

Arm weakness – Similar to balance issues, a person may experience weakness or numbness in the arms. Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one is sagging like the person is holding a heavy weight.

Speech difficulty – A common symptom of a stroke is slurred speech. Ask the person to say a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.”

Time to call 911 – If a person shows any of these symptoms, even if they appear to go away, call 911 and tell EMS to get your loved one to ACMC’s Primary Stroke Center.

As the only Primary Stroke Center in Ashtabula County, ACMC has an expert team that works together to determine the best course of action for the patient. The stroke team is made up of caregivers from the Emergency Department, Neurology, Radiology, Pharmacy, Laboratory, and Respiratory Therapy.

ACMC’s stroke protocols are based on guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association and are designed to get patients tested and treatment started. ACMC’s protocols consistently are faster than the national average for getting a CT scan and, when appropriate, administration of the clot-busting recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA), also known as alteplase.

While your risk of stroke does increase as you age, there is also a growing number of younger people are having strokes.

“An estimated 10 percent of all strokes occur in people under the age of 50. That may not seem like a lot, but that rate has nearly doubled for age groups between 18 to 54 years of age,” Dr. Muthusamy said.

Aside from age or a family history of stroke, lifestyle choices play a huge role in our risk of having a stroke. Factors include high blood pressure or high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, and activity level.

“Poor lifestyle choices put a strain on our cardiovascular system, specifically our circulatory system. By making healthy choices when we are younger, we can reduce our risk for stroke as we age. Talk to your primary care provider or neurologist about your stroke risk and follow their suggestions for lifestyle changes,” Dr. Muthusamy said.

For more information about the risk of stroke, visit To schedule an appointment with Dr. Muthusamy to talk about your personal risk of stroke, call 440-994-7544.