Stroke is becoming more common in the United States, and recent statistics reveal that close to 3-percent of the population has had one. Unfortunately, incidences of stroke, along with cancer and heart disease, are leading causes of mortality across the nation but more so in the region including Texarkana and surrounding counties.

But stroke is preventable and largely treatable. According to a press release, the American Stroke Associates reports that almost 80-percent of strokes can be prevented – but you have to know how. As a Primary Stroke Center, CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System serves as a community partner in stroke prevention and treatment and provides an Acute Stroke Response Team, available 24/7, that can promptly administer the clot-busting drug, tPA, and rapid treatment for stroke patients.

Throughout the year and especially during Stroke Awareness Month in May, the experts at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System are doing everything they can to make sure the people of Texarkana and Northeast Texas are prepared through education and awareness.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urges everyone to learn the warning signs of stroke and take action to reduce their risks. Living a healthy lifestyle, being physically active, eating more fruits and vegetables and foods low in sodium and salt, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking can reduce the chances of having a stroke. Properly managing certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes also can lower the risk.

“It's extremely important to know and recognize the acronym ‘B.E.F.A.S.T.’ when it comes to stroke education,” said Jennifer Skinner, BSN, RN, SCRN, Stroke Coordinator, CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System. “Take a minute to memorize the acronym so you can act quickly – and acting quickly is what is most important. Time saves brain, and fast action saves thousands of lives and can prevent disability.”

How to BE FAST:

  1. Balance – Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
  2. Eyes – Is there sudden blurred or double vision or sudden, persistent vision trouble?
  3. Face – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?
  4. Arm – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  5. Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  6. Time – If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately, as time is very important during a stroke.

“Each year, nearly 1 million Americans suffer from a stroke,” said Skinner. “Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System offers patients a chance to learn more about their risks and what options for prevention they have in just a few short minutes through taking a free health risk assessment online at ChristusStMichael.org/StrokeAware.”

Like other medical experts, Skinner strongly urges area residents to learn as much as possible about their current stroke health risks so they can better identify any medical or lifestyle factors that may lead to the development of a stroke. Armed with that knowledge, individuals can then take an active role to reduce their risks and work with their physicians to minimize the likelihood of stroke.

“Most importantly, if someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately,” said Skinner. “The more you know, the faster you can act, and the better the outcome will be for the patient – including saving a life.”