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Every Second Counts: Responding to Stroke Symptoms

Strokes are a leading cause of disability and death worldwide, and their impact can be devastating. When a stroke occurs, every second counts. Rapid recognition and immediate medical intervention can mean the difference between recovery and permanent disability, or even life and death.


Understanding a Stroke

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. Strokes can be classified into three main types:

  1. Ischemic Stroke: The most common type, caused by a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain.

  2. Hemorrhagic Stroke: Occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, leading to bleeding within the brain.

  3. Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Often called a mini-stroke, this is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke.


Symptoms of Stroke

Recognizing the symptoms of a stroke is crucial. Common symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.

  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.

  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.


The Importance of Time

The Golden Hour

The first hour after the onset of stroke symptoms, often referred to as the "Golden Hour," is critical. During this time, medical interventions are most effective. For example, clot-busting medications, such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), must be administered within a few hours of symptom onset to be effective.


Brain Cells and Time

Every minute a stroke goes untreated, an estimated 1.9 million brain cells die. This can lead to significant brain damage, affecting a person's ability to speak, move, and think. Rapid treatment can dramatically improve the chances of recovery and reduce the risk of long-term disability.

Immediate Actions to Take


Recognize BEFAST

The acronym BEFAST is a simple way to remember the key signs of stroke and the importance of swift action:


  • Balance: Have you experienced a sudden loss in balance?

  • Eyesight: Have you suddenly lost vision in one or both eyes?

  • Face drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

  • Arm weakness: Is one arm weak or numb?

  • Speech difficulty: Is speech slurred or strange?

  • Time to call 911: If any of these symptoms are present, even if they go away, call 911 immediately.


Calling 911

Do not attempt to drive the person to the hospital. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel can begin treatment on the way to the hospital and ensure the patient receives immediate care upon arrival. Recovery from a stroke often requires extensive rehabilitation. Westchester County offers numerous resources, including Andrus on Hudson.


Community Resources


Responding quickly to stroke symptoms is paramount to improving outcomes and saving lives. In Westchester County, residents have access to excellent medical care and support services that can make a significant difference in stroke treatment and recovery. Remember, when it comes to stroke, every second counts.

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