{Guest Column} Know the warning signs for stroke: F.A.S.T.

By Julie Drake
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | After more than 40 years of decline, progress has slowed in preventing stroke deaths, according to the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control. Also of concern is the increase in stroke deaths among Hispanics and people living in the South. In Colorado the trend is reversing. Deaths from strokes had been decreasing and now they are on the rise. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability, but it doesn’t have to be, about 80 percent of strokes are preventable.
Stroke is a medical emergency. Learn the signs and symptoms. Remember FAST.
Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven or lopsided?
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? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the person able to correctly repeat the words?
Time to call 911: If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and say, “I think this is a stroke” to help get the person to the hospital immediately. Time is important! Don’t delay, and also note the time when the first symptoms appeared. Emergency responders will want to know.
High blood pressure is the single most important preventable and treatable risk factor for stroke. Get a blood pressure cuff for home use, or regularly go to a place that has one. It is important to measure blood pressure at different points in time. Write down the time and readings and take to your physician for interpretation. Stroke risk can be identified early and prevention is key.
If you can’t think of an appropriate Christmas gift for a parent, friend of colleague, think about purchasing a home blood pressure unit. Help them understand the importance of using it and writing down results. This gift could be life saving.

Julie Drake is the Rio Blanco County Public Health Director.