In the event of a stroke attack, “time is of the essence,” says Dr. Ji Y. Chong, the Site Chief of Neurology and Director of the Stroke Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital.
During a stroke, blood flow and oxygen to the brain is cut off and brain cells begin to die. Recognizing the signs of a stroke and calling 911 immediately is vital. Quick treatment increases your chances of surviving and lessens complications that happen as a result of stroke. For Stroke Awareness Month, Dr. Chong shares how to act in case of a stroke:
What is important to know about stroke?
JC: We need to know the signs of stroke because stroke can be unexpected. “BE FAST” is an easy way to remember them. Sudden onset of these symptoms may point to a stroke:
|Balance – loss of balance|
|Eyes – loss of vision|
|Face – droopiness on one side|
|Arm – weakness in an arm|
|Speech – slurred speech, inability to talk or difficulty understanding|
|Time – call 911 immediately|
People should be aware that they need rapid evaluation to see if they are eligible for immediate treatments such as blood clot dissolving medication like tPA. To work best and help decrease the long term consequences of a stroke, it has to be injected by IV within 4.5 hours from the start of a stroke.
What is the first thing someone should do when they experience a sign of stroke? How do we get help or help others?
JC: The most important thing is to call 911. Do not wait for family members or the primary doctor—stroke is an emergency. The Emergency Medical Services team or ambulance will assess the patient and transport them quickly to the nearest Primary Stroke Center. Stroke Centers are designated by New York State to hospitals that have demonstrated they can provide rapid, high quality care to stroke patients.
What advice do you have for seniors or family members who are living alone? How can they best protect themselves from stroke?
JC: People living alone should make sure they have a way to call 911 or have someone who can call for them. Independent seniors should maintain social networks or join senior centers so there are people who can check on them. Home attendants who often care for seniors should also be informed of what to do in case seniors have a stroke.
Prevention is also important. Knowing the risk factors and addressing them is key. High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease are all risk factors that need to be monitored and treated. Smoking also puts you at high risk for stroke. Don’t smoke—and if you do, quit. Eating a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, nuts, and beans is also beneficial. People should avoid foods that are processed and high in sugar and salt such as preserved meats or vegetables, fried foods and sweetened drinks.
Learn more about the signs and how to prevent stroke here.
Dr. Ji Y. Chong is board certified in Neurology and Vascular Neurology. She is involved in the clinical care of stroke patients from acute treatment to long-term secondary stroke prevention. Dr. Chong has been involved in several clinical trials and epidemiologic studies of stroke. She is also the Director of the Stroke Center at the NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital and committed to quality improvement and education initiatives to improve stroke care for the community.
Written by Bonnie Tse
Bonnie Tse is a health educator at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Hunter College.