Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. While they are the fifth
leading cause of death in the United States, strokes are both preventable
and treatable. May is American Stroke Month, a time to raise awareness
about stroke prevention and treatment. To do that, we must know the risk
factors and warning signs.
Stroke Risk Factors
Poor diet and lack of exercise can increase your chance of stroke. Furthermore,
there are a number of pre-existing conditions that put you at higher risk:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Heart Disease
- Sickle Cell Disease
Stroke Warning Signs
To identify someone who might be having a stroke and get help, the
American Stroke Association recommends learning the F.A.S.T. warning signs:
Time to Call 911
If you think you are having a stroke, call 911 right away. “Don’t
wait. To receive the medications you need, you have to be here within
three hours of symptom onset,” says Ashlee Pinion-Raby, CVMC stroke
First responders are trained to identify stroke victims and begin treatment
in the field. Once at the hospital, patients are assessed by a local emergency
room physician and given a CT scan. Then, using a stroke robot referred
to as “Webster,” a stroke-specific neurologist from Wake Forest
Baptist Health performs a second assessment.
The two physicians work together to determine whether the patient qualifies
for tPA, a quick-acting, clot-dissolving drug that helps restore blood
flow to the brain. “You have two physicians collaborating to get
you the care you need right when you need it,” Pinion-Raby says.
The lack of lag time between a patient’s arrival and treatment is
one of the reasons CVMC administers more tPA than any other WFBH hospital
in the region. According to Pinion-Raby, once the ER physician orders
the drug, the treatment is fast-tracked through a well-rehearsed process.
Within 10 minutes, the pharmacy mixes the medication. A nurse then delivers
the tPA to the patient’s room, where another nurse is prepped and
waiting to administer it.
Of course, preventing strokes is the ultimate goal. Increasing your physical
activity, improving your diet, and quitting smoking all help reduce the
likelihood of a stroke. If you have any of the pre-existing conditions
that put you at a higher risk of stroke, be sure you are managing those
with lifestyle, diet, and prescribed medication.
For more information on stroke prevention and treatment, please visit