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Stroke Symptoms: Recognize Them FAST Before it’s Too Late

Stroke Symptoms:  Recognize Them FAST Before It’s Too Late

Strokes occur approximately every 40 seconds in the United States according to the National Stroke Association.  And they often cause either death or severe disability.  However, now through the availability of clot-busting medications, we don’t have to sit on the sidelines waiting to see how things turn out.  In fact, if we act quickly, and identify strokes using the FAST test, we can save lives and sometimes stop strokes in progress.  Together let’s look at the causes, helpful identification strategies, and common treatment options for strokes.

strokeArtsyBee/ Pixabay.com

How Strokes Happen

When someone has a stroke, their brain stops getting normal blood flow and brain cells can start to die.  This can occur one of two ways.  There can be a blockage stopping the blood from getting where it needs to go.  On the other hand, there can be an abnormal opening and blood is going somewhere it doesn’t belong, leaving less or none to go where it is needed.  It might help to think of it like either a clogged or a leaky pipe.

Identifying Strokes Using the FAST Test

The sooner we recognize that someone is having a stroke, the sooner we can start doing something to help him or her.  To help us do this quickly, the FAST test was developed.  Each of the letters F-A-S-T stands for something that will remind you what to check.

F- Face

Ask the person to smile and check to see if one side of their face droops.

A- Arms

Ask the person to raise both of their arms.  Look to see if one arms starts to drift down toward the floor.

S- Speech

Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase such as “The sky is blue.”  Listen to see if they have trouble saying it or if it is slurred or heard to understand

T- Time

If you notice ANY of these symptoms in a person call 911 immediately.  Even if the symptoms seem to go away.  Time is brain and the clock is ticking!

Emergency Treatment Options

The treatment options differ depending on whether you have a clog or a leak.  If you have a leak (known as a hemorrhagic stroke), the treatment is usually conservative in hopes that the internal bleeding will stop on its own.  In some instances when the bleeding is excessive or not stopping, surgical procedures may be needed to stop the bleeding.

If the cause is related to a blockage (known as an ischemic stroke), then it is important to determine if it can be removed.  It may be possible to and reopen the path to allow blood flow to start again.   Some people can benefit from a medication called tissue plasminogen activator (TPA), a clot-busting drug that goes through the veins.  However, it needs to be given within 4.5 hours after stroke symptoms or it is no longer considered a safe choice.  That’s why it’s so important to seek help immediately.  Brain surgery may also be used to remove clots in certain cases.

What Happens if you Wait too Long

Sadly, not every knows how to recognize the symptoms of a stroke or seeks help quickly.  In these cases, the window of time to use TPA may pass and that is no longer an option for ischemic strokes.  If the stroke cannot be stopped, everyone needs to wait and see what type of damage has been done.  In a nutshell, the type of damage seen depends on which part of the brain has been injured.  In the worst cases, death can occur.  If the individual does survive the stroke, the following types of problems may still occur.

  • Communication impairments
  • Vision problems
  • Mobility issues (usually on one side of the body)
  • Speech impairments
  • Behavior changes
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Changes in taste and smell

As a nurse, I have seen many patients suffer strokes and have to deal with the resulting deficits.  The one situation that really stands out in my mind is the case of a construction worker who didn’t know about the importance of seeking help immediately.  He decided to wait until morning to see if he felt better.  Unfortunately, he did not feel better, in fact, he was worse and it was too late to use clot-busting drugs.  He ended up unable to speak clearly, unable to move one side of his body, and literally sat in the chair crying out of frustration most of the day.

Rehabilitation centers do a wonderful job of helping people restore functions and abilities that have been lost.  However, not everything can be restored.  So do your best to prevent problems whenever you can, identifying a stroke using the FAST test, and call 911 for immediate help when needed.  Save some brain or maybe even save a life.

Reflection Questions:

1.  It’s not only important that you know the FAST test, but that your family and friends do too.  Whom can you share this information with today?  They may be the ones helping to save your brain one day.

2.  Would you like to learn more about how to prevent a stroke in the first place?  If so, check out this link for additional helpful information.  Preventing a Stroke.


American Stroke Association

National Stroke Association

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Email Inbox Insanity: Organize and Enjoy Electronic Communication Again

Has Your Inbox Become a Source of Chaos and Frustration?

Technological advancements have improved many areas of our lives.  We now have life-saving medical equipment that can help you get through a health crisis.  We can engage in audio-visual communications with people across the world at any time during the night or day.  And the email inbox allows us to overflow with rich information that we just can’t get enough of.  Hey, wait a minute, can’t get enough of email?  I think it’s more like, we have TOO much of it!  However, given a choice, I would never willingly give up my email.  I connect with family, friends, colleagues, potential employers, and future clients all with my email.  But, I needed to do something about the abundance of emails I was receiving and make sure that it remained beneficial to my life.  Read on and see what has helped me end the insanity and tame my inbox tiger!

inboxFarrell Nobel/ Unsplash.com

Keep the Barn Door Closed

  • Don’t Subscribe If You’re Not Really Interested.

    In case you didn’t notice it, everyone wants you to give up your email address these days, so they can contact you again in the future.  In order to make it more enticing, they often give away what is called a “freemium.”  The word freemium is a combination of the words free and premium.  The good part for user is that you do walk away with free, often highly valuable item.  The benefit for the seller is that you may later purchase something even more valuable from them at a higher premium price.  Freemiums are great, in fact, I have acquired several recently that I can’t wait to read and learn from.

    The problem with this marketing strategy is that it is very easy to start getting way too many emails.  This is a great way to avoid missing things without having to think about it or look for it.  When I post a new blog or podcast, I send out an email to anyone who has asked me to letting them know.  The problem with this marketing strategy is that it is very easy to start getting way too many emails.  The thing you need to remember is to ONLY sign up for things you are interested in.  For example, don’t sign up for recipes on how to prepare beef dishes if you’re a vegetarian.

  • Unsubscribe to Things You No Longer Want.

    Once you do sign up for an email list, remember that you’re not married to it for life!  Make it a part of your weekly routine to take a close look at what type of mail you have been receiving and UNSUBSCRIBE from anything that is no longer beneficial to your life.

    It can feel like you’re being disloyal, but in all honesty, our needs and desires change regularly.  I have two adult children and I don’t currently have any grandchildren (at least that I’m aware of!).  Do you think that I would benefit from emails regarding healthy baby food?  Years ago, I would have and I may in the future too but not today.  Now, maybe I saw an ad for healthy ways to feed your family and I signed up for the list.  My definition of family may have been different from the company or person who placed the ad.  All I need to do is simply unsubscribe, no harm done.

Organize your Closet

  • Don’t Mix Things Together that You Can Keep Apart.

    If you’re not regularly a fan of home improvement strategies and strict organization systems, you’re going to want to listen to this anyway.  Refusing to organize your inbox is like mixing 15 cereals into the same big container and then deciding you want Cheerios for breakfast.  Have fun with that!  Seriously, who has time to pick out individual Cheerios?  And if you tried to do that with bare hands, what type of germs would you be spreading?  Oh, and won’t the other cereals get on the Cheerios and contaminate them?  Mixing your cereals together would be setting yourself up for disaster.  Don’t do it!  Keep your Cheerios in their own box and you can easily get them when you want them!

  • Setup Folders

    Every email program is slightly different, so I can’t give everyone the directions they need to do this here.  But I can tell you where to find the directions you need.  On the upper right hand part of the screen in your email program, you should find a drop down menu that shows you the word “HELP.”  Once you open up the help screen, you can type in questions and quickly find out how to do something.  Here’s an example from Gmail.  I typed in “filter messages” and found directions easily.

    email help

    Imagine 20 children walked in the door of your building wearing either a red, blue, green, or yellow shirt.  Your boss wants you to separate the children by the color of shirt they are wearing.  So, as the children come up, you start telling them where to go.  When you’re done, you have four groups of children all separated by colors of shirts.  So, when you want to work with the Blue team, they are easy to find.

    The same thing can be done with email.  You separate each mail piece coming into the inbox so you easily find what you need later.  I like to separate email in terms of who sent it to me or what the topic is.  There might be a Bob, a Sue, and a James folder.  I also could choose to have one called Nutrition, one labeled Exercise and one refer to Funny Stories.

File or Delete

Telling you to file or delete each email is the easiest one to talk about, but it can be the hardest one to do regularly.  In order to keep in control of your inbox mail, you will want to set up a schedule to deal with the mail.  Here are a few suggestions that may help.

  1.  Designate Times to Deal with Email.

    Checking email can easily be an all-day affair if you let it.  Instead, I encourage you to set up times to do this.  Twice a day is ideal, one in the morning, and one in the evening.  But that’s too frequently for you, once a day is fine.  And, of course, if you job requires more of you; try to limit it to once an hour if possible.

  2.  Make an Immediate Decision.

    The reason you need to designate times, is because you have a job to do here, it’s not just mindlessly browsing your favorite social network.  As you open each piece of mail, decide to deal with it right then and there.  Decide if you want to respond immediately, file it in one of your folders to deal with in the near future, or delete or archive it if you don’t need it.

  3.  Clean out the Box before Bed.

    Life happens to all of us.  An emergency can pop up in the middle of dealing with your email that prevents you from keeping on track.  No worries play catch up at the end of the day (or end of the workday) so that you start with a fresh slate in the morning.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How much control do you currently have over your email inbox?
  2. Do you think starting to use one or more of these strategies may help you?
  3. Which techniques do you plan to try?

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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