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In Case of Emergency: FAST

Vantage Point: Act FAST

Due to its beauty, 4 distinct seasons, diverse recreation opportunities, and 300-plus days a year of sunshine, North Central Washington is a paradise to many. Living here helps to promote a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude.

For several years, North Central Washington has also been known for the inevitability of summer wildfires. And last year, with the towns of Carlton and Pateros burning, and this year, with the town of Wenatchee on fire, it’s put a whole new meaning on how devastating, scarring, and unpredictable wildfires can be and how important it is to act fast when one occurs. The same can be said for a stroke.

A stroke is an often unrecognized, true emergency, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Strokes are the second-leading cause of death for people 60 years or older worldwide, the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, and a leading cause of serious long-term adult disability.

Strokes can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of race, sex, or age. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, smoking, diabetes, poor circulation, inactivity, obesity, and family history. You can learn more by visiting the National Stroke Association’s Stroke Awareness website, but the best action you can take is to get regular checkups with your primary care doctor, so together you can formulate your own prevention plan.

There are two types of strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic, and during a stroke, 2 million brain cells die every minute, increasing risk of permanent brain damage and disability. Therefore, recognizing symptoms and acting fast to get medical attention can save a life and limit disabilities. The sooner you call 911, the better chance there is of recovery. So remember, “FAST” stands for:

  • Face, look for an uneven smile.
  • Arms, check to see if one arm is weak or unable to move.
  • Speech, listen for slurred speech or inability to speak.
  • Time, call 911 at the first sign.

Like natural disasters, many times, health concerns such as strokes come with no warning or time to prepare, so it’s important to have adequate health insurance coverage. Our expert and local customer service representatives are always here to help our members understand all their health insurance benefits, especially in the case of an emergency, so they can worry less and focus on what is most important, enjoying the North Central Washington good life.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four adult sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

Signs of a Stroke

Do You Know the Signs of a Stroke?

About 700,000 Americans will have a new or recurring stroke this year, and more than 158,000 of them will die. Stroke is the third highest cause of death among Americans and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

About Strokes

There are different kinds of strokes:

Ischemic Stroke
A blockage within a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. These account for 87% of all stroke cases.
Hemorrhagic Stroke
When a weakened blood vessel ruptures, like an aneurism. The most common cause is uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Often called a mini stroke, these are caused by a temporary clot. But these warning strokes should be taken very seriously.

 

Strokes can cause:

  • Paralysis on the left or right side of the body, depending on the side of the brain the stroke is on
  • Vision problems
  • Quick, inquisitive behavioral style or slow, cautious behavioral style, depending on the side of the brain the stroke is on
  • Memory loss
  • Speech or language problems

Signs & Symptoms of Stroke

The early signs and symptoms of stroke are very similar to the long-term effects. These can include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion
  • Trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking or loss of balance

What Happens After a Stroke

Once you’re taken to a hospital, a doctor will try to gather info to make a diagnosis. They will:

  • Go over what’s happened already
  • Get your medical history
  • Do a physical and neurological exam
  • Get certain blood tests done
  • Get a CT or MRI┬áscan
  • Study the results of other tests that might be needed
  • Work with you on immediate and long-term treatment

Preventing Strokes

The good news is that 80% of all strokes can be prevented by managing key risk factors, including high blood pressure, smoking, and physical inactivity. More than half of all strokes are caused by high blood pressure.

Learn more about high blood pressure, its generic drug options, or preventing strokes.

Remember, if you or someone you are with experiences stroke symptoms, it is very important to get medical attention immediately. If given within the first 3 hours of symptoms, a clot busting drug can reduce long term disability for the most common type of stroke.