When it comes to stroke, the sooner treatment begins, the better. To shorten the time between a stroke and the beginning of treatment, researchers are examining a lot of angles. Their focus includes:

Hospitals
A July 2019 study from UCLA found that speeding up stroke treatment in hospitals by only 15 minutes could save many lives, as well as reducing disability among survivors. The researchers took a look at “door-to-needle” time—the amount of time between a patient’s arrival at the hospital until treatment with clot-busting drugs began. One focus of the study was to urge hospitals to be ready for patients who arrive during weekends, holidays and nights. Said study author Dr. Reza Jahan, “We’re trying to improve treatment with better staffing on off hours and getting doctors to the hospital quicker when they’re on call. Patients who arrive at the hospital at 2 a.m. should be treated no differently than people who arrive at 2 p.m.”

Paramedics
Another July 2019 study, this one from Michigan State University, looked at what happens before patients arrive at the hospital. “When it comes to strokes, doctors have a mantra: time is brain,” the authors said. “Delaying treatment even by minutes can mean the difference between a normal life and permanent disability, or even life and death.” The team, headed by professor of emergency medicine J. Adam Oostema, targeted the “pre-hospital side”: paramedics, who by alerting the hospital that they are on their way with a suspected stroke patient can allow the hospital to be ready. To help paramedics identify strokes, Oostema and his team provided training. The paramedics also requested follow-up information as to whether they had been correct in their calls. “They wanted to know what happened to the patients after they’d dropped them off,” said Oostema.

The general public
The third group of people who need to be able to recognize stroke symptoms is … you and me! Very few people suffer a stroke in the presence of trained medical personnel! So awareness of the symptoms of stroke should be a goal for everyone. The National Stroke Association shares a simple way to remember the signs of stroke, F.A.S.T.:

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1- immediately, and tell the operator what time the first symptom began.

Kids
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center noted that children may well be the only people around when an older adult suffers a stroke. So they developed the “Hip Hop Stroke” education program (hiphopstroke.org). If you like hip hop, check it out yourself! The researchers reported that more than half of the 4th to 6th graders who took part in the program had a good knowledge of stroke identification afterwards—indeed, four kids were able to put their knowledge into practice, calling 9-1-1 for stroke symptoms! This included “one who overruled a parent’s suggestion to wait and see” and was correct.

And here’s another benefit to learning the F.A.S.T. acronym: the UCLA experts also remind us that many dangerous delays happen when a person is alone and fails to identify their own symptoms. If you think you might be having a stroke, don’t stop to think about it. Call 9-1-1 right away.

Source: IlluminAge with information from Michigan State University, University of California Los Angeles, the National Stroke Association and the American Heart Association.

 The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about stroke prevention—and if you suspect you or someone else has symptoms of stroke, call 9-1-1 right away.