John Ferro, MD

Nyack, N.Y. May 2, 2013 -- Recognizing the signs of a stroke can be life-saving. The sooner a person suffering a stroke gets medical treatment, the better their chances of recovery. If you spot the signs, call 911 quickly.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked by a clot, or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. The result is parts of the brain become damaged or die. About 795,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. Stroke kills more than 137,000 people a year.

To help spot some of the common signs of a stroke, think “FAST”:

  • Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

  • Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

  • Time to call 911: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately. Note the time the stroke symptoms first appeared. The doctors can give a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), but it only works if given right away.

    The above is not an inclusive list of all stroke symptoms so call your doctor if you do not feel well.

Some stroke risk factors can’t be changed, such as age (the chance of having a stroke doubles for each decade of life after age 55), family history, race (African-Americans have a much higher risk of death from a stroke than Caucasians do), and gender (men are at greater risk). 

The good news is there are a number of risk factors you can help control. These include high blood pressure and cholesterol, cigarette smoking, obesity, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
To reduce your stroke risk:

  • Regularly visit the doctor and follow their advice to control your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat less fat, sodium and calories, and increase the servings of fruits and vegetables you consume
  • Exercise regularly; try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days               

About Nyack Hospital
Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, NY. Founded in 1895, it is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and has partnered with Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine providing clinical rotations to third-year medical students. Its mission is to provide competent, innovative and accessible emergency and acute care services to the residents of Rockland County and surrounding areas.