Risk of stroke means we all must BE FAST

You can save a life in just a few seconds, by being ready to respond if a stroke occurs. Nearly 800,000 Americans experience stroke each year. Strokes cause 140,000 deaths each year and are a leading cause of serious long-term disability.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Act quickly if you notice the signs of stroke, which you can remember with the acronym BE FAST:

B – Sudden BALANCE loss

E – Sudden EYESIGHT loss

F – FACE drooping

A – ARM weakness

S – SPEECH difficulty

T – TIME to call 911

When you see these signs, get to your local emergency room right away. We’re always ready for you, day or night. The damage a stroke causes gets worse with time – the sooner you call 911 and get to an emergency room, the sooner that lifesaving, brain-saving therapy can begin.

If you or a loved one needs a higher level of stroke care, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center is the only Comprehensive Stroke Center in South Dakota and the wider region. It’s one of only 306 of these facilities in the nation. This designation affirms a full array of high-quality stroke services, from diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and education.

You don’t need any training or tools to help prevent strokes before they happen:

• If you use tobacco or vape, set a date to quit. You can do it, and resources to help you are easy to access. State programs guide people (like you) to quit every day. Your health care provider can help, too.

• If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or another chronic conditions, work closely with your primary care provider to keep it controlled as much as possible.

• Drink alcohol only in moderate amounts, if you drink at all.

• Eating foods low in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet can also lower your blood pressure. High cholesterol and high blood pressure increase your chances of having a stroke.

• Stay active. For adults, 30 minutes of activity five days a week is recommended. Walking is a great way to begin.

Start with small steps and work to add them up. Getting healthier with a spouse, family member or friend is a great way to keep on track.

Another great way to remove the threat of stroke and other serious health events is to see your primary care provider regularly. In fact, the upcoming summer months are a great time to schedule your yearly preventive checkup, if you haven’t already.

Your clinician can help you stay on track with lifestyle changes and any therapies or medications you need to manage your health.

Take care of your health, BE FAST if stroke occurs and be confident you have ready access to the right care if you need it.

— Debbie Streier is regional president/CEO of Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center


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