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The Key to Stroke Response is FAST
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According to nearly a decade of Ministry of Health and Welfare’s statistical data, cerebrovascular diseases remained in top places in the top ten causes of deaths in Taiwan. It was ranked 4th place in 2017, and was estimated to be responsible for 11,755 lives in that year. On average, one person dies of the disease every 44 minutes, with majority of the casualties claimed being males. However, 90% of all cerebrovascular diseases could be effective prevented through adequate risk factor management. The risk of deaths and disability from cerebrovascular diseases can even be significantly lowered through rapid identification of the stroke symptoms, timely medical admittance and treatment administered within the 3-hour prime period of stroke incidence.
As October 29th is the World Stroke Day, Dr. Ying-Wei Wang, Director General of the Health Promotion Administration, calls on everyone to raise awareness to this worldwide health issues, and to adopt a healthy life style for good management of chronic diseases. Dr. Wang reminds everyone to remember these four letters to stroke response – FAST, and encourage everyone to remind their families, friends and colleagues as well. In order to reduce the damage of stroke to its minimum, learn the FAST tips to rapidly identify the symptoms of stroke during emergency moments and to seek emergency medical attention.
Memorize the FAST acronyms: Face, Arm, Speech, and Time
The effects of stroke are debilitating; it not only affect personal health, but also land huge burden on the patient and his/her family. The acute ischemic stroke is the most common type of cerebral stroke, constituting about 70~80% of all stroke incidents. However, the debilitating complications of the stroke can be effectively mitigated if the patient was given venous thrombolytic agents within 3 hours after the onset of stroke. To raise public awareness on the symptoms of stroke, the Health Promotion Administration, in collaboration with the Taiwan Neurological Society and the Taiwan Stroke Society, promoted the FAST acronym for timely stroke response, and as a convenient mnemonic for the public to memorize the key steps to take during an acute stroke event, so that patients can receive the assistance needed within the 3-hour prime period (please visit https://goo.gl/DGxYX8 for health education video). The acronym is as follow:
acial drooping (
) – a section of the face that seems distorted, looks different from the other side, and a crooked smile.
rm weakness (
) – the inability to raise one’s arm fully on either side of the body (or leg)
peech difficulties (
) – inability or difficulty to understand or produce speech
– if showing any of the above symptoms, note the time and call 119 emergency services immediately, or go to a hospital immediately.
Prevention of cerebral stroke – beware of risk factors
According to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA), while stroke is prevalent in people with advanced ages, the risk of the disease doubles by every 10 years for people age over 55 years and above. Those with familial history of stroke should also be careful as well. According to the Taiwan Stroke Society, males age over 45 and females over the age of 55 are high risk populations for stroke. The risk factors of stroke are closely related to lifestyles, dietary habits and the “3-Highs” – high blood lipid, high blood pressure and high blood glucose. The Health Promotion Administration encourages everyone to pursue a healthy life style and be rid of the risk factors for stroke:
I. Management of chronic diseases: patients with the 3 highs have double the risk of stroke than normal people. Please follow the doctor’s orders carefully, take regular medicines and regular checkups. Patients with hypertension should measure their blood pressure levels every day. Additionally, about 9% of stroke is related to cardiac arrhythmia (i.e. atrial fibrillation) and other cardiac diseases, so patients should seek professional medical opinions or therapy to reduce the risk factors of stroke.
II. Lifestyle management: the general rules for reducing the risks of stroke are to stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, eat healthy diet, exercise regularly, maintain good control of body weight (BMI), and sleep well. These are not just tips for stroke prevention – they are also good advices for management of other non-communicable diseases and key to a healthier and longer life.
Beware of the signs of transient ischemia attack and seek medical help immediately; do not use folk remedy
The seasonal shift from autumn to winter is prone to unstable weather patterns, where it may be shift from warm to cold and back frequently. This is also a period of high stroke prevalence. The Health Promotion Administration would like to remind everyone to seek proper medical help when feeling uncomfortable, and do not believe in folk remedies or internet rumors, such as curing stroke and hypertension by performing bloodletting or eating banana peels. Do not underestimate the seriousness of transient ischemic attack and delayed treatment, or you may miss the prime time for stroke treatment and lead to greater, irreversible damages, that are otherwise preventable with the FAST tips.